So far, my year of service with GSV has been a process of accepting one blessing after another, and I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the fullness in my life. When I reflect on all the meaningful moments that I’m grateful for, the things that tie them together are two of the tenets that I’ve been exploring through the program: simplicity and community.
Gratitude in Simplicity
Before I started my year with GSV, I thought that the most difficult tenet to practice would be simplicity. While budgeting can be a challenge, I’ve found that intentionally living simply has also planted seeds of gratitude in my heart. Every day at work at the National Advocacy Center, I’m reminded that there are many people who don’t have access to basic necessities. As one of my community members pointed out, living simply within this program is still a relatively abundant lifestyle compared to what many people experience on a day to day basis. Being intentional about my budget and focusing more on basic needs than ever before, I often find myself in spontaneous little prayers of thanksgiving whenever I receive something I need, like a full tank of gas in my car, a meal, a hot shower, or a good night’s sleep. Limiting what I spend and consume has actually given me a sense of abundance in what I do have.
Grateful for Community
This year, I’m doubly blessed to have two communities: My fellow GSVs based in New York and New Jersey, as well as a community of 14 Franciscan Mission Service volunteers that I live with in Washington, D.C. I’m incredibly grateful to be experiencing this year with both groups of people, and I’m learning from each individual I’ve met.
Usually, when I tell people that I live with 14 roommates, their jaws drop and they immediately ask whether I have my own bedroom and bathroom (bedroom: yes, bathroom: no.) Many of my friends and family think it must be a big challenge to live in such a large community. But, I see it as an enormous blessing. I feel so lucky to be able to be part of a community at a time when the pandemic has brought isolation and a feeling of disconnectedness to so many people. I’m grateful for the unique ways that each person gives to others: through baking delicious treats or cooking food to share, washing the dishes, giving a warm hug, asking questions and showing concern for others, or sharing a prayer. Over dinner conversations, weekend bonfires, and Sunday pancakes after Mass, I’ve been able to get to know each person and their unique stories and insights. I’m grateful for the way that people in the community depend on each other and put in effort to make it a welcoming place to live.
Meanwhile, while my fellow GSVs may be far, I know that they are only a phone call away. After bonding over games, meals, and social justice during orientation, I’m grateful for the ways that we’re able to stay connected through virtual Community Nights, birthday Zoom surprises, and even handwritten notes. For Halloween this year, we mailed each other handmade cookies and rice crispy treats decorated like ghosts and monsters. It’s these sweet little things that make me feel grateful for the connection we share.
Through these communities, gratitude has become a more regular part of my life. As I’m writing this, my heart is very full. Recognizing the blessings that God has given me has inspired me to try to give my time and efforts back to Him, whether that be through advocacy projects at work, house chores, prayer, building relationships with others, or even resting. I hope that over time I can learn to give as abundantly as I’ve received.
DC Community, ‘20-‘21