In this season of counting blessings and making resolutions I think back to the memories of 2010 and of those my time spent in West Virginia with the PVs. Spending part of the summer with other volunteers makes it easy to have a spirit of servitude, especially serving others by giving time, one of the most valuable gifts. Following the way of St. Paul of the Cross we travel from around the world to W.V. to give our time in service to others. It is not difficult for me to make this commitment summer after summer. When I return to West Virginia I am returning to family, to a simple life without television, internet, or constant cell phone connection to distract me from all the beautiful moments that I would otherwise miss. This simple life marked with daily thoughts of gratitude must not end when I return to my routine life of college, work, and constant activity. However, when I give the time to volunteer throughout the year it is with a different spirit than the one that takes over me in W.V.
In contemplation I think back to the times when I am most giving- what is it in W.V. that makes the time spent there filled with a spirit of true servitude? Again I think of the simplicity of life in those Blue Ridge Mountains. Simplicity must be the secret that allows the gracious and giving spirit to flow through me and support the persisting desire to do more. It is this spirit that wakes me up early on a summer morning to drive an hour on those curvy mountain roads to work all day in the beating sun or the pouring rain; it is this spirit that induces the strength that helps drive the stubborn nail into the deck board that I’ve been struggling with for embarrassingly far too long; it is this spirit that forgets the late night of yester eve which robbed my body of needed sleep and instead created enough energy to climb the mountain, again; it is this spirit that generates my unexpected and genuine smile of compassion in response to a grateful embrace from the owner of the house whose floor was just replaced. What a remarkable spirit that is produced when life is lived simply.
My New Year’s resolution is to make this simple life part of my life not just in West Virginia, but throughout the rest of the year. I resolve to strive for the genuine and generous spirit of not just giving my money (which I, like most other college students, have very little of anyway) but giving my time and my full attention to every person and every task that I am given. I resolve to really listen to the person talking to me and try to understand their story rather than blocking their words with thoughts of what still needs to be checked off of my list for the day. I resolve to send more hand-written letters to friends, and to say hi to more strangers. I resolve to think less of how something will benefit me and more of how it may be hurting others. I resolve to live without distractions- a lifestyle that I take for granted in West Virginia, and have difficulty establishing the other eleven months out of the year.
I hope that with the blessings of the New Year we can all take some time for reflection on ourselves as PV volunteers. Our title as a PV volunteer does not begin and end with the West Virginia state border. The spirit of servitude that allows us to build, serve, and believe is in our hearts all year round. We must unlock this spirit and allow it to reflect itself in our way of living simply even when we are not surrounded by the Appalachians.
Happy New Year