Montana Eco-Steward Vickie Machado is a graduate student in the Religion and Nature master’s program at the University of Florida. She lives at The Gainesville Catholic Worker House, where she recently gave a talk on mindful living.
After helping out here for about two and half years, I committed to living at The Gainesville Catholic Worker for the Fall semester. This Catholic Worker House is one of more than 150 Catholic Worker communities around the world dedicated to living the social dimension of the Gospel by serving and living with the impoverished, struggling for social and economic justice, and working for peace. We practice this through our weekly activities, which include Dorothy’s Café, Breakfast Brigade and Art for All.
We strive to live as an intentional, faith-based community committed to a life of prayer, scripture study and culture critique. As a house, we host a variety of events that act as an effort to carry out these ideals. In terms of culture critique, we hold a monthly Roundtable Discussion. The first Thursday of every month, the house hosts a potluck dinner in which everyone is invited in the hopes of promoting dialogue on topics and issues pertinent to the world we live in today.
In October, I co-led a roundtable discussion on mindful living with Dr. Whitney Sanford, a professor at the University of Florida. We hosted a good group of about 24 people over a potluck family-style dinner. Dr. Sanford discussed the intentional non-violent, Gandhian-based communities (the Possibility Alliance and Dancing Rabbit) that she had visited this past summer. And I focused my part of the discussion on my time spent last summer with the Eco-Stewards in Montana. Together we showed how living an intentionally-based life is possible and how the way it is carried out varies from place to place. We really stressed the importance of being aware of the impact humans have on the world and the other people around them.
The following is a reflection I wrote after thinking more about this roundtable discussion on mindful living:
Socially, environmentally, and spiritually, we have the opportunity, more so the personal responsibility, to account for our actions. This accountability works best with love. In order for an effective and lasting change, we cannot blame others for not being able to make the common sacrifices we take for granted. We must support one another. Even a small change is better than no change at all. As much as I dream about writing those “angry letters,” I have learned you catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar. We are ALL God’s children. Sometimes we need a friendly word to ease ourselves into things. Trust me, three years ago I would have never thought I would be living at a Catholic Worker House, but after being here for a couple months, it seems so natural.
As cliché as this sounds knowledge is power. It’s not that people don’t care, sometimes they just don’t KNOW. In those cases, we must open up the conversation, not with guilt and condemnation, but with hope and love- and with humility.
For those that do know, I believe it was Peter Maurin who said we must create a society in which it is easier for people to be good. We must promote positive changes in our communities and in our social structures that allow us to care for the environment, the people around us, and the world at large. We were put here on this earth for a reason: to love God and to love our neighbors. These aspects go hand in hand, and I think most people would agree this is not something that stops at a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a temple, or any other place of worship/spiritual growth.
I truly believe love is something that must be carried out into the world. What better way to show love than through the everyday mundane things we usually take for granted? So with this, I encourage you to live your life with intentionality. However it is carried out. Don’t walk around with your head in a cloud, strive to know the impact you have in and on this world. Create community; bike somewhere; build an Earthship; know where the food you eat comes from; engage in discussions. Most of all: love people. We only have one life, and it goes by fast.
Please consider The Eco-Stewards Program in your year-end charitable giving. Donation information is listed in the sidebar on the right.