I had a lot of expectations coming into the year. I got my position here…
The idea of what “simple living” is has been completely shifting and changing to mean different things throughout my time with MVC. When I started my first year with MVC, I thought I knew everything I could about living simply. It seemed obvious that with my stipend, living simply was all about denial. I thought, “I can’t have this, go there or do that because it’s too expensive.” However, I didn’t realize that the tenet is “simple living in community,” and being in community with other people helped open my eyes to a whole new meaning of what “simple living” meant. It meant discussion and contemplation on what was important to me. What was important to my community, like where and what items got bought. Was there a reason to buy something if it’s cheap, if it won’t be used, if it’ll go bad, or should we spend a few extra dollars on a different brand or better quality item? If I need to get something, should I choose the most convenient, cheapest choice, or decide to save up a little to buy from a small business? My community members helped open my eyes to starting to think about living simply as another part of social justice and different ways to care for both people and the Earth. Learning to take a minute to contemplate what I may need or want helps me produce less waste by not impulse buying, and taking a pause to decide what item I want when there are so many different choices helps me decide where I want to put my money.
In this journey of simple living I also realized it’s not only the what and how I’m spending money, but also my time and energy. Through MVC, we’re encouraged to leave the program not losing any money, but not gaining any money either. And so that means I have a budget, not just for the living necessities, but also for leisure. And so it made me think again about what is important to me. Spending time with the Baltimore community, not just my community members, but also the MVC support people, the friends I made at my service site and those in the city. Part of the community stipend goes to baking supplies such as flour and sugar, as it is something both for me to relax, and a way to show my community I appreciate and love them by showering them with baked goods. Or, as I need some time to decompress from work by staying inside and having quiet conversations with my community, using my stipend for a board game or two. Or, using it the next month to explore and learn Baltimore with a local meal-or even decide to save my stipend, and instead make it a challenge for myself to find something local and free to enjoy my time with.
I know living simply is different for everyone-after all, just two years ago, it meant something completely different to me then it does now, and I have to say that I’m excited to see what it means to me at the end of my time with MVC as a volunteer.
Katrina Thaibinh: Baltimore, MD