BSVM has five program pillars that are all connected in the year of ministry, and they all work together in the personal and communal journeys towards transformation through service with others. Narda Salinas (BSVM ’17-’18) shares how her understanding of “living simply” evolved over the year, linking deeply with building relationships and developing community. Read below to hear more from Narda (this reflection was first published in The Companion, Spring 2018, Issue 25).
Living Simply to Simply Connect
by Narda Salinas (BSVM 2017-2018)
A graduate of St. Edward’s University
Consider this; you are in a waiting area, the television is on, there are dozens of magazines and educational pamphlets on the tables, and you even have wireless internet to browse through endless sources of social media. While some of these things help pass time, you still cannot help but glance at the clock. The reason for this may be that no amount of distractions can fill you like human interactions. When you strike up a conversation with another person, time seems to fly by. It is a simple act that does not require material things, but does require presence.
I have learned that fewer distractions allow for more time to create human connection. There are times when I walk into the waiting area at the Bon Secours Family Health and Wellness Center and there is absolute silence and a feeling of apathy within the room. Then, there are moments when people are naturally talking and laughing with one another. In these shared exchanges, I feel God. I see God moving through everyone in the room as they talk about their daily lives. I experience the divine within these interactions as those in the waiting room take the time to see others and to be seen.
I serve the patients at this clinic by reminding them of their appointments, connecting them with resources, and supporting them in any way that I am able. I would miss these opportunities of service if I was distracted by material things or my own thoughts. My mind and heart would be cluttered and I would be unable to be completely present to those I meet. When I reflect on these moments of connection, it occurs to me that living simply is truly about relationship.
Being aware of and making efforts to remove distractions helps to cultivate the commitment to live simply. At the same time, I am learning that living simply is not about deprivation. Not understanding this when I first moved to Baltimore, I packed my essential belongings carefully into one suitcase and a duffel bag. I minimized my wardrobe and packed a couple of photographs to feel at home. By circumstance, I lived simply before, so I was no stranger to the concept (or so I thought). I visualized living simply as living minimally with only the bare necessities. As I prepared for my year with BSVM, I made a personal vow to use my phone so rarely that my friends and family at home would know not to expect updates from me regularly. I believed that living simply meant going “off the grid,” so that I would be fully present in Baltimore. However, I quickly learned that restricting my communication with friends and family did not mean that my mind would not wander to other places. Now I understand that I do away with “stuff” not to have less, but to make intentional room for my priorities. My phone experiment taught me that I do not have to completely get rid of my phone; what matters is when and why I use it.
Recently, this truth became clear. My community chose to challenge ourselves to live more simply for a week by only listening to music when other people were present. While we struggled with not having our own music, relationship building opportunities presented themselves. We bonded over sharing each other’s music and filled our silent times with other activities such as reading and knitting. For me, this emphasized the idea that purposeful choices and considerate actions fill my life and the lives of others. I now make time to speak with loved ones, just as I make time for my community members in Baltimore. Both are essential to me.
Before coming to BSVM, my focus on deprivation limited my vision of what it means to live simply. I now understand that living simply means centering myself and being present with others in the moment, whether it be listening to a friend’s favorite song, talking on the phone, or asking for more details about my friend’s latest adventure. Living simply means living fully. It brings me closer to others, to God, to finding God in others, and in so doing to my authentic self.