By Corrinne Burns, FC 17 Syracuse
I remember laying on the floor of my older sister’s apartment two nights before I was leaving for Syracuse. We had spent a long day playing beach volleyball, eating ice cream and making the most of those last few days with my friends before my entire life shifted gears. As we played some strange galactic version of Settlers of Catan I was making mental checklists of what I still needed to pack.
Of course I read the “packing list” a dozen times but it wasn’t the most helpful document. Would I need my tennis racquets? How many pairs of shoes was it acceptable to bring? Would it be “uncool” of me to pack my treasured stuffed animals? What was the dress code going to be at my placement site and at Mass? I spent most of my packing time sitting in the middle of my room at home deliberating over these questions and others like them. In the end, I just packed everything. Before we left, my dad made me remove several books from my ottoman-library (which weighed about 60 lbs.) insisting that the friars would have books I could read. My parents were dropping me off in our minivan and we could take out all the seats and pile it high with stuff. I thought it was better to take too much than to forget important items (such as my entire collection of art supplies).
I had no idea what to expect in the house. I had studied it endlessly on Google Maps but I couldn’t see the inside. I had some preconceived ideas about what exactly simple living meant and I knew I wouldn’t want to spend much of my stipend so I stocked up on stuff I might need before we made it to Syracuse.
It’s a big house. Eight bedrooms, 2 full baths, 3 living/gathering spaces, a walk-in pantry, and a basement longing for a mural to be painted in. The house gave the 5 of us lots of breathing room. Even before the FrancisCorps Costa Rica volunteers left there was room for the 9 of us to be comfortable. Our pantry, linen closet, utility room, and board game supply were stocked. Suddenly, all my stuff turned into clutter and an overflowing closet.
More importantly than having a fully furnished house, our personalities and community laughs began to fill the spaces where that one pair of shoes I had left at home might have been. My Christmas blanket and ice skates certainly came in handy in community life but all the stuff I brought could not begin to compare to the smiles, memories, and laughs that everyone else had brought.
Simple living had nothing to do with the amount of stuff I had stashed in my little room (although I had worried it might) but much more to do with the role that stuff played in my life. I certainly didn’t need to bring (or own) 32 dresses but there’s joy in being able to match my community members at any given time. There’s a couple of bikes in the basement but bringing my own reminds me of home and allows for someone else to use a hand-me-down bike to accompany me on the adventure that are New York hills. The use of my stuff is a good thing as long as it doesn’t detract from the value of a FrancisCorps experience.
My parents are coming for a visit soon and I’ll probably send some things back with them now that I know all my worries about stuff aren’t important. In the end, I’ll never really need any of it when the stuff my community members’ souls are made of is the same as mine.