By Molly Butler
Molly is serving this year at Loretto at the UN, in New York.
The twenty-something years are a decade characterized by ongoing change. Teetering on the brink of responsible adulthood, we’re encouraged to take risks, embrace our independence and live in the moment, while simultaneously hustling to get ahead in our careers and making plans for an impending future. It’s exciting but tricky, juggling self-liberation and networking. I feel the same complexities as a year-long volunteer. The sheer reality that it is only short term means that we can’t help but feel some pressure to think about what comes next. But at the same time, we’re faced with an opportunity to infuse our values with our work and to embrace the vulnerability. This deserves our full attention. We can’t get so caught up in the transience and long-term mindset that we fail to immerse ourselves in the experiences we hold close today. It’s a balance.
I think of it like riding a bicycle. To do so, you have to be ok with moving forward. But in that same moment you must be acutely aware of your present surroundings. You must start by choosing a general direction and then re-route as need be.
Regardless of where I am living or working, building community is what sustains me. Many of my fondest memories with my housemates over the past two years have involved a shared love for biking. From sharing work commutes and tandem rides to church to weekly bike clinics, nature rides through Rock Creek Park, and Brooklyn rides at sunset, these memories remind me that biking brings people together. It makes you feel in sync with others and offers a unique perspective on the places that you share. Although my life feels transient at the moment, I try to be very intentional about immersing myself in my relationships and the place where I’m living. I enjoy getting to know my neighborhood - learning the history, connecting with neighbors and navigating my presence in a new place. Biking has empowered me to connect with the greater communities within which I’m living and to share the journey with my housemates.
The awareness and presence required for biking by myself is often that of a spiritual experience. Regardless of my destination, the ride itself is a unique moment to slow my brain, focus on my surroundings and be with myself as I unwind from the day. Even the bustle of urban biking can be a sort of centering prayer when you recognize the vastness and interconnectedness of all that surrounds you. It’s an opportunity, and requirement, to focus only on what you are doing to keep steady; realizing that there are few ways to multitask while riding a bike sets you free. It feels good to release the tension of your body and concentrate on breathing, using your own energy to propel you forward.
My seasoned blue road bike and I have been traveling together for a while now. From the streets of Chicago to DC and now New York City, I appreciate the self reliance that I have gained from urban biking. It has changed the way I move through the world by heightening my senses and empowering me to explore new terrain. On the journey of Loretto volunteerism it became my vehicle for engaging the program values in a unique and sustainable way. Whether it be community or spirituality, simple living or social justice, each value holds the same weight and by carrying them at once, we stay balanced. Living justly is not just a one-year commitment, but a way of life that we, as volunteers, continue when we go.
Be it Loretto life, my mid-twenties or a ride through the city - my bike has gently held me through these somewhat uncertain times. And with a full heart, I conclude my Loretto volunteer years feeling prepared to embrace vulnerability, live mindfully, and maintain this momentum as I move forward. After all, my bike would lose its balance without me there to ride it.
In Their Own Words
We invite you to get to know Loretto Volunteers and the program here. Volunteers introduce themselves and reflect on their experiences.