JVC creates valuable opportunities for volunteers to live a simple, practical life. Their basic needs met and living in solidarity with people who are poor and marginalized, they separate needs from wants and gain freedom from the material. As part of a supportive community, they learn to prioritize, put people before things, and make deliberate, intentional decisions about how to use their time, money, and talents. The JVC experience is a chance for volunteers to reflect on simple living, define it in their own terms, and explore how to carry it into their lives.
In the words of our Jesuit Volunteers:
There’s something about putting a bunch of people on a tight communal budget that makes us grateful for what we do have. It also makes us generous: when we all know that none of us has much, everything is shared.
– Clare Myers, San Jose 15. Rape Crisis Advocate-YWCA Silicon Valley. University of Dallas 15.
I’m learning I don’t need much to really live. I have a roof over my head, food to feed my belly, clean water, new and old friends and family to feed my soul and need for human interaction. At the end of the day, what I choose to spend my $100 stipend on feels like a luxury.
Dollar pizza slices? Luxury. Ice cream & Nutella. Definitely a luxury. Dollar book finds? Luxury (yet still a good deal!). The opportunity to even think about comparing brands and prices on toiletries? Luxury. A $4 cup of coffee and an afternoon to sit, reflect and be in a Seattle-esque coffee shop? Luxury. These are all rare gifts to myself that I took for granted when I had more than $100 as disposable income.
These are all great buys but I find that my soul is fed more from my interactions with my community (both in my JVC home and at work at Cristo Rey Brooklyn), people watching on public transportation or strolling through a New York City park.
I don’t need money to buy me soul-feeding human interaction. I can’t buy laughs or conversations on social justice with self-aware individuals. I find that detaching myself from the consumer culture we live in has created more space within myself for real conversation and time to reflect and be. There’s a deep beauty in being able to focus my energy on other human beings rather than on internal debates on what to spend my $100 on.
– AnneMarie Ladlad, New York 15, Corporate Work Study Program Coordinator-Cristo Rey Brooklyn. Seattle University, 15.
Slow down. This is the first lesson Pohnpeians have taught me. It’s as if the culture is saying, “Nicole, it’s ok. Just be. Be you, you are enough. Your presence is enough. We want to know you, not what you can do.” Ever since I have accepted a slower internal rhythm, I have become even more productive. I am accomplishing something far more valuable than perfection in my teaching; I am finding true companionship with my students and co-teachers. My lesson plans might not be planned to perfection, but I’ll be able to show them more deeply that I care. Because at the end of the year, we won’t remember the one lecture on electron configurations, but we will remember the moments shared together through companionship.”
– Nicole McCoy, Pohnpei, Micronesia 15. Teacher-Our Lady of Pohnpei Catholic High School. St. Louis University 15.