Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Poor You?

While poverty may be the vow of a religious priest or nun, underlying virtues like simplicity of life or the attempt to release attachments to material things are values offered to all in the Gospels. But how do they apply to those with other responsibilities, like having a family? Do they really?

After posting yesterday about poverty, one of my friends wrote me about this very issue. It's easy for me to say, live simply. But as a married person with children, she has to be able to put food on the table and clothes on the kids' backs.

I wonder how others, religious or otherwise, think about the invitation to simplicity (or the vow of poverty) in their own lives. Inspired by my friend's email, I figured out how to make the comment feature on the blog work again, so I invite you, if you're interested, to post your own musings about these things.

To post a comment: at the bottom of this entry, you'll see a line indicating how many comments have been made. Click on that and you will be able to read others and leave one of your own.

I'll be back tomorrow with a little more on this. (We can save chastity until next week...)

Enjoy.


Sydney at night from St. Ignatius College, Riverview

5 comments:

jm said...

Hey Jim -- This is one of my favorite topics in that I feel like I'm always struggling with the challenge of simple living. Interestingly, in contrast to your friend, I find that having my own family makes it harder to do so than if I were in charge of just myself and my own possessions. It's the sheer volume of things entering our lives, especially baby clothes (attic has 15 boxes and counting -- she's not even 2 yet) and toys. Not to mention my dear spouse's incredible volume of paper that he brings home from work. Tree after tree after tree. It's figuring out what is the "best" road to take with each purchase, each category of purchasing -- expensive, long lasting furniture? or (as Michael has been known to do) pull out of a neighbor's trash and rehab? Incidentally, as you mentioned spending time on people not things, I've been spending a LOT of time recently getting rid of things, finding that throwing things out and giving them away takes up way more time than I thought. This is why I get anxious when an unwanted or unnecessary thing finds it's way in the door. It's a time-suck to get rid of it. Time, then, is as big a part of trying to live simply as money is. In summary, I guess for me the 2 lingering questions are these: (1) Everything seems to cost either time or money: which do I spend in each situation in order to allow me to focus on people above all else in my life? (2) How might I graciously receive gifts in such a way that I honor the people giving them even, but might still -- in the spirit of living a simpler life -- let them go? Thanks for letting me vent on your blog, McD! It's something on my mind a lot these days.

jm said...

PS - Didn't sign my comment -- it's Jill :)

Katie and Maeve said...

Jim(et al),

So I agree with Jill that Simplicity or Poverty does seem to get more difficult when you are married and part of a family. Possessions are no longer solely yours to reign over, there may be competing priorities and/or viewpoints on the matter. Not only do you have to worry about the extra things but about the daily necessities (food, water, clothes, housing.) And like Jill, for me, it is a constant and ever present struggle.

In addition to being part of a family, I am further challenged by our recent relocation to CA where the attitude, in general, towards “things” seems a bit different from my midwestern roots. Or perhaps the attitude is the same and the things just have more bling! But I can’t get over all the expensive homes and fancy cars and I don’t understand how people afford them---much less what is wrong with owning a Chevy vs. a Mercedes. I am always wondering how the cashier at the grocery store makes ends meet. But never the less, you can feel yourself getting caught up in the madness.

I do try to be very conscious of my purchases, always weighing NEED vs. WANT (thank you JVC) and trying not to let the thing rule my life but I don’t always succeed. So perhaps it is not really about possessing the things, maybe the things are just a symptom of the problem. Poverty of spirit. I am a worrier and so it occurred to me today that perhaps my time spent worrying about finances is really a result of desolation---the good ol’ Jesuit theory of consolation and desolation. For me, that might be part of the struggle, not moving God up the priority ladder. Not making the time to focus on God and let those worries go, even if just for a while.

So Jill, you are right----it looks like things either cost time or money. And as for your thoughts on gifts----my theory is this----if it is truly a gift, the giver has no expectations as to how it will be used/handled and no expectations for a thank you. This may sound harsh but that is how I try to feel when I give a gift----I do my best to give something that I think will be appreciated by the recipient but to me it does not really matter if they keep it, chuck it, or give it away and I certainly do not expect a thank you. I believe that a true gift is freely given.

A weighty topic and I look forward to the rest of the discussion.

Katie and Maeve said...

I would like to clarify my previous post. I guess what I really meant to say about poverty of spirit is that I think that I am only going half-way with simplicity. I try to minimize the material stuff but I am not sure that I am elevating my fellow human or God for that matter. Make sense?

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