]New Year’s Eve has always been a bit strange to me – the notion of an instant moment in which everything somehow changes – and the weeks that follow seem, for many, to be filled with empty promises of hopeful changes in behavior to be a newer, slimmer, healthier, fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-“-ier” self. I recently saw a list of the top 10 New Year’s Resolutions on Facebook, which echoed this. While few, if any, of the Resolutions are, of themselves, a bad thing, I can’t help but think how self-focused and socially-influenced they seem to be. It has had me thinking – wouldn’t it be great if more of us (myself included) tried to make commitments aimed toward the common good, rather than to benefit only ourselves?
I have found myself asking some questions that may lead to making some “Resolutions,” but perhaps of a different sort. If I say that I am committed to living mindfully, deepening my spiritual journey, and aspiring toward greater solidarity with our brothers and sisters who daily face the realities of poverty and injustice, then where are the inconsistencies in my life and what are some next steps I can strive to take this year to continue on this journey?
The skeptical or cynical part of me stops immediately and thinks “really, Maura?!? With a toddler and a newborn, a part-time job, and everything else life throws one’s way, do you honestly think you can follow through on something else?” But then I stop and think about that a bit more – yes, I can, and must, take on something else. If I am committed to living more justly and raising these a family in light of that, if I consider my work not just a job and a paycheck but a ministry and a vocation, how can I not continue to take steps on this journey?
So in my own context, how can I better promote the common good? I don’t know that I have answers to any of these questions yet, but they have had me thinking over the past couple of weeks:
What nourishes me spiritually, and how can I continue to look for and be present to the Incarnation we just celebrated over Christmas in my immediate presence – even my 2 year-old son as he refuses to nap? How can I carve out time to be more aware of the presence of God in the world?
How can I be more intentional with the community of people with whom I surround myself, including with our neighbors in need? How can I better prioritize community, and how can I move more toward relationship rather than ‘helping’?
Are there decisions or practices to which I – and we, as a family – can commit in order to live a little more simply and leaving a smaller footprint on the environment, to be in greater solidarity with most of the rest of the world? Are there practices or habits that I do out of personal convenience or because they are normative to our society that could be changed to be more in line with the common good?
What a gift for me that I have the opportunity to walk with these Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati through their year of service – challenging me as I invite them to continue on this life-long journey of faith, friendship, and service. I know they will continue to serve as reminders to me to continue asking tough questions, even when we do not have answers, and then to try to, as Rainer Maria Rilke said in Letters to a Young Poet, “live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, [we] will gradually, without even noticing it, live [our] way into the answer.”
Cheers to 2014, a New Year hopefully full of good questions. I hope you’ll consider joining me along the journey as you explore and live into your own questions and strive to bring about the common good.
Maura Carpinello has the great gift of serving as Program Manager for Vincentian Volunteers of Cincinnati. When she’s not walking with the VVC members as we all “live the questions,” she is walking around with her two young sons who keep her very busy.