BY SARAH NEITZ | February 14, 2014
I can’t stand to throw out anything.
The conflict arose at our house meetings, which we’ve designed to air such conflicts. At the orientation for Jesuit Volunteer Corps, our program staff encouraged us to hold weekly house meetings: cell phones away, agenda on the table, schedules in hand, my three community mates and I gather after dinner to discuss the business of sharing things. We hash out who will get the car when, the best way to do chores, how our budget is doing. I know, riveting. But it’s actually a very important part of our week. I feel it when we don’t have a house meeting. We’re off-kilter, out of touch with the What’s Going On of you and me and us. Plus we always have dessert and tea.
One of the items on the agenda was “water in the fridge.” Oh, boy, I thought, Water is dripping in the fridge? Repairs take forever! But, no. The problem wasn’t the fridge, or even the repairman. The problem was me.
“What are those Tupperware filled with water? We were trying to fit some leftovers in the refrigerator, and had to move everything around,” one of my community mates explained.
As Jesuit Volunteers (JVs), my housemates and I committed to live by four values: social justice, community, spirituality, and simple living. Simple living can mean many different things to different people. For me, simple living is my way of not only advocating for, but living justice. By thinking critically about how I acquire and focusing my time on relationships, I flout consumerism and busy-ness. I try to make purchasing and living choices that prioritize others and God: I choose to buy thrift store clothing and Fair Trade coffee, minimize my use of electricity, and learn to cook because of simple living. I also think about how I get rid of things: reducing my waste is an important part of how I live simply.
The water in the fridge was a byproduct of my pickles. Or, not really water. It was that magical combination of water and white vinegar that can produce a crisp, juicy pickle which will not kill you with botulism. After making 4 jars of pickles, it had seemed silly to throw out this carefully measured mixture. Couldn’t I pickle something else?
And so it sits in the fridge.
Making a home, building a community, doing justice, requires time. Simple living is more than just refusing to throw out your pickle water. It’s taking the time to pickle something else. Because it’s important. There are so many big choices we make in our lives and so many important issues for which to advocate. But it’s also the little things, the daily things, that make for a more just world. Maybe I care for the world by pickling. But it’s caring for my community that makes me finish the job. Guess how this JV will spend her Friday night?
Sarah is a full-time volunteer with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Detroit, Michigan. A graduate of the University of Scranton with degrees in international studies, Hispanic studies, and philosophy, she has studied in Mexico and El Salvador. She worked with immigrant and homeless services in Albuquerque, New Mexico and continues her service as a university minister at the University of Detroit Mercy. Passionate about the intersection of performance art and politics, Sarah writes, acts, sings and gardens. She seeks experiences that will help her bring creativity and dialogue to civic life.