I asked my friend Mary to guest post today. I “met” Mary after the death of Jack Morris when I had the idea to look up tributes people may have put together. Mary’s blog, Finding Joy In All Things, was the first one on the list.
Mary and I were in the same volunteer program in the same year. However we were in different regions so our first meeting had to be delayed a while. Each region has an orientation so while I flew off to the great Northwest, Mary was in New York. We probably passed each other at 36,000ft if the dates line up right.
I asked Mary to do a “response of sorts” to something I wrote last year on advice in long term service. It’s pretty awesome. Enjoy.
1. Be gentle with yourself. This was the best piece of advice I received at orientation. You will face many challenges this year, and it helps to remember in these situations that you’re doing the best you can. You don’t have to be perfect to be exactly what’s needed.
2. Your experience is your own. You’ll hear lots of stories from former Jesuit Volunteers, coworkers, and folks in your city about previous JV communities. Remember that everybody has a different JV experience and everybody brings a unique set of gifts. Let your experience be your own and know it won’t resemble anyone else’s.
3. The four values are yours too. There’s no JVC police enforcing a specific way of living the values of simply living, social justice, spirituality, and community. You’re a grown up now, and you can choose how to live your life – including how you (or how you don’t) live out the four values. They will be much more meaningful if you make them your own.
4. Practice indifference. This is a fancy Ignatian way of saying “be open.” It’s impossible not to have any expectations or preferences about what your year will hold, but try to be open to whatever your year has in store.
5. Journal. I went through about four journals in my JV year, but I also write too much. These journals are some of my favorite keepsakes from my year. I love rereading them and remembering the moments and people that made my year special. If you’re not a writer, consider taking pictures or drawing or whatever it is you do to remember things down the road.
6. Consider making a house journal. My roommates and I got this idea from an FJV who had a traveling journal that was sent from roommate to roommate after their year ended. We started our own mid-way through the year, and five years later the journal is still making its rounds. It’s a nice way to stay in touch with community members after you go your separate ways.
7. Find creative ways to amuse yourself. An $85 a month stipend doesn’t go very far. To amuse ourselves in an isolated city (Syracuse, New York), my housemates and I played a lot of “full contact” spoons, sardines, telephone Pictionary and spent a lot of time outside. We learned to find joy and entertainment in simple things like baking, preparing meals, writing letters to other communities, and planning get-togethers with friends in our city. Even though we were broke, we managed to entertain ourselves.
8. Travel. Especially if you are on the East Coast or have other communities within driving distance. My community members and I took trips to Georgia, Portland, Newark, New York City, Pennsylvania, Hartford, Ottawa, Watertown, and DC all on $85 a month (see find creative ways to amuse yourself). Tip: bring food for the car from home and accept hospitality from other communities.
9. Update the folks back home. When your year ends, it will make a big difference if your friends and family back home know what happened during JVC. You will meet people and have experiences this year that will potentially change your life, and your transition to post-JVC life will be easier if the folks back home can talk to you about them.
10. JVC doesn’t end at the end of your year. Even though it may not seem like it at certain points in the year, the year of service will not last forever. Much more of your life will be spent out of JVC than in. JVC is really just the prep year, the year that will “ruin” you for life, the year that will color the way you see many things for a long time. Remember that you don’t have to figure everything out this year and that the journey is just beginning.
Bonus: JVC is the “real world.” I got a lot of flack and heard a lot of jokes about doing JVC to postpone entering the real world; as if JVC was just playing pretend for a year. I think people equate real with having more than $85 in expendable income every month. From my experience, JVC was just as real as any other part of my life, and I saw and experienced things I never would have if I had just gone straight into a “real job.” I’m a better professional and better person because of my year serving in JVC
*Sorry about the formatting. I have no idea how it happened, or how to fix it.