BY CHRISTINE WHITE | April 10, 2017

Spring has come fairly suddenly to Wenatchee, Wash. One week there was still snow on the ground, the nearby mountains glistening; now, the rain has cleared the snow and I find myself not needing gloves on my walk to my service site. Soon, the mountains will begin to turn green and the wildflowers will bloom.  

Christine White on a hike near Twin Peaks.

The weather mirrors transition in our ‘JV life cycle’ as well. We are well settled into our routines, and we’ve become more comfortable in our placements and with each other. At the same time, we find ourselves looking forward to the future and beginning to make career plans for the coming years. We are even beginning to communicate with potential JVs that are applying for next year’s service! Anticipation abounds.

However, this time of year also brings moments of stress and tension. Decision-making about the future is difficult, particularly in a context when everyone—fellow JVs, support families, supervisors—wants to hear about our next steps. I’ve also felt a significant amount of stress since the inauguration of the new administration, feeling my own anxiety and absorbing that of my clients in these uncertain times.

[socialpug_tweet tweet=”Self-care, patience are vital in arming ourselves emotionally to do the work we do #JVReflects”]

It is in these times, more than ever, that lessons of self-care and patience are absolutely vital in arming ourselves emotionally to do the work we do. JVC Northwest (naturally) gives us the tools to do this in our daily lives through the four values: social and ecological justice, spirituality, simple living, and community.

White (second from right), with her JV community.

Recently, with a group of JVs from other communities, we began discussing these values. What value do you feel most in-tune with this year? What value has challenged you the most? I was surprised, hearing so many different answers – it’s easy to forget in our own bubbles how different the experiences of others are!

[socialpug_tweet tweet=”I can’t take on every single issue #JVReflects @JVCNorthwest”]

For example, the value of social justice feels very upfront and obvious in my day-to-day service as Outreach Coordinator & Legal Support at the Northwest Justice Project. Currently, however, I feel as though I have to allow myself some space. I can’t take on every single issue, dive into every single perspective, read every single article—it’s too much. I allow myself to swim in the aspects of social justice my service brings up (particularly immigrant rights, mental health, access to housing, and access to legal services). I then allow myself to take on the other values in small ways. These small moments include daily habits of doing dishes and reflecting on water use. Of taking out the trash and being grateful that we have the opportunity to compost. Of walking just about anywhere instead of driving, grateful for the chance to stretch my legs and reflect on the privilege of access to transportation and of having the health to walk around. Of lingering around the dinner table to share conversation with my community mates.

Unexpectedly, these small moments have also been wonderful points of reflecting on the value of spirituality. Every JV engages in this value in different ways – through Mass or other worship services, through our weekly spirituality nights, through individual prayer or learning about a variety of spiritual traditions. I enjoy all of these activities.

However, I suddenly realized one day that I engage in prayer and mindfulness the most through some of my regular hobbies. Singing with a choir in Wenatchee and hiking in the plentiful outdoor opportunities Wenatchee has to offer are two activities that have really helped me explore community this year, both through spending time with my JV community and with other people in the broader community. However, I notice in the moments of solitude during these activities, I am also, in a way, praying. There is a full engagement in the senses, and the activities are meditative in the way they clear the mind. When I am singing, I feel the music in the floor, and I hear the harmonies all around. I am not thinking about what work I still need to do in the back of my mind. I’m singing; that’s it.

Hiking is a different sensory environment, as it is more subtle and more layered. There is silence punctuated by the sound of wind, a variety of smells, and texture of the ground underneath my feet. The only thing I think about is putting one foot in front of the other, and I focus on the trail that is ten feet ahead of me, no more.

The Wenatchee JV community on a winter hike.

These moments are most transcendent for me, most filled with awe, most in tune with the rhythms of life and God and the way I am entwined in it all. I did not expect to be so struck by the meditative nature of these activities that have always been a part of my life, and I am grateful to have new perspective on them as I head into the rebirth of spring.

A fellow JV once told me that JVC Northwest was both nothing she expected and everything she expected. In these small moments, I could not agree more. The coming of spring brings a moment to allow us to reflect on the passage of time and rebirth, on what emotions and activities we are welcoming (or would like to welcome) into our lives. I am so grateful for the JVC Northwest values to help guide me in this ever-present cycle of rebirth.

#JVReflects explores the intersection of faith and justice from the perspective of JESUIT VOLUNTEERS serving as long-term volunteers both domestically and internationally with Jesuit Volunteer Corps and Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest.  Reflections specifically focus on the cornerstone values of the Jesuit volunteer experience: spirituality, simple living, community, and social justice.

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