Editor’s note: DC Service Corps volunteer, Julia, reflects on her time in DC and the ways it has helped her to appreciate simplicity and the will of God. 

If I had to choose my least two favorite things, I would have to choose hot weather and bugs. As someone who gets hot very easily and is allergic to most bug bites, I have had my share of “suffering” through the years when it is blazing outside and the pests are swarming. (Can you tell that I love camping?) And of course I found myself in DC – where the summers are incredibly humid, and we rank #3 for the worst cities with mosquitoes in the nation.

Well, leave it to God to teach me a lesson even in this area of my life! A dear friend of mine pointed out that some people don’t have the luxury of avoiding the heat or the bugs. Through my year of living in DC so far, I have gotten a closer sneak-peak into a lifestyle completely removed from the one in which I grew up – despite having been raised in a family with humble beginnings and a fair amount of financial struggles. During this year, I have peed in the woods, been covered with dirt and sweat with no bathroom or shower nearby, struggled to walk to work and other places without a car in the hottest and coldest times of the year, and gone for months dealing with a variety of issues that have cropped up: heat problems, Wi-Fi outages, a broken clothes dryer. And even then, I am so privileged to have air conditioning and internet access in my home, bug spray and sunscreen to apply when I go outside, a bathroom with running water, financial security – enough to even afford a car if I really needed one, a well-stocked supply of feminine hygiene products, a family that will send me money if I am struggling, and the list goes on. So even though I have been trying to live simply and in solidarity with the economically poor, there are still so many things that I take for granted!

I am very grateful for the opportunity this year has given me to experience life in a new way and see how fortunate I am that I get to choose this way of life. So many others in the world have no home to come back to and escape the heat and the bugs, among other things. I think about the joy that is often found among those living in poverty, especially compared to the anxiety and depression prevalent among those of us who are wealthy according to global standards of living. Maybe the more we have, the less we appreciate having those blessings. Could it be that fewer possessions and comforts lead us to be more grateful and mindful of what God has given us? 

As I wrap up my time in the DC Service Corps, I thank the Lord for showing me the freedom that follows from a life of simplicity! My year of service has confirmed my heart’s desire to diverge from society’s expectations and live radically according to the Gospel. You may wonder, how is she going to deal with that if she cannot even handle 90-degree weather and some bloodsucking critters? Well, I want to be patient with myself as I gradually leave behind the things that have pampered me my whole life. I know it is possible, especially with my man St. Francis showing me the way.

Reflection Question: How do you seek simplicity in your life?