The Following reflection is from Ms. Clare Fay, a Cohort 9 Seton Teaching Fellow. Clare graduated from Christendom College with a degree in English Literature and a professional focus on human resources. She spent her year as a Fellow teaching 1st grade in the North Bronx at Brilla Caritas Elementary School. She‘ll be continuing her service with Seton Teaching Fellows as a Recruitment Associate for the 23-24 school year. In this blog post, Clare reflects on the gift of simple living and it’s realization in child-like wonder.
While I was yet discerning and preparing for my possible year as a Seton Teaching Fellow, I distinctly remember reading that Fellows “live simply” and instantly panicking. There are a number of things that inspire a life of simplicity—detachment from money, vastly reducing your possessions, seeking necessity over luxury, placing people before comfort—and to a young person considering entry into the professional world, this doesn’t often seem attractive. Despite concerns around self-denial, I was drawn to the mission of the New Evangelization and I said yes to Seton Teaching Fellows. I then braced myself for what I thought would be a year of discomfort and—reluctantly, I admit—left half of my wardrobe behind as I packed up to move to the Bronx. When I got to New York City, the other half of my wardrobe was quickly forgotten and I started my year as a Fellow. However, in the whirl of mission and service, I continued on without intentionally pursuing the ideal of simple living.
More than nine months into my year as a Fellow I’m reminded of the phrase “simple living.” I realized recently that I’ve actually embraced the pursuit of simple living without it having been an intentional goal. It’s been affirmed by my El Camino disciples, who have beautifully imparted this gift to me without realizing what they have done in my life. My El Camino disciples do not live extravagant lives, but they are extraordinary children. They do not look for much in a person and they offer an infinite amount of love and forgiveness (I can confirm this from personal experience). Leaving my clothes behind did not teach me how to live simply; instead, being received with grace and love each day while my first-grade class watched me struggle as a new teacher taught me the gift of simple living.
Yesterday we had class in a different room than normal. I took a photo, pictured above, because a few of my El Camino disciples spontaneously knelt down as they were looking out the window, and sang the Angel of God prayer. My disciples find wonder in the smallest things! They were excited just to learn from a classroom which looks out on a different side of the street. They rushed to the window to pray, and once they had prayed, began looking outside at all that was present. One of them lovingly pointed to a tree and said “Look! God made that!”
It’s precisely this child-like wonder for everyday moments that has taught me how to live simply. It has taught me that God can be seen in a single tree viewed from the window. He is present everywhere, and sometimes he can only be recognized through a child’s eye. My disciples have taught me that even amongst the most routine days, if we spend that day together then it is a gift. Each day that they see each other is a gift. Each day they welcome me into their classroom as their teacher is a gift. Everyday I am greeted with the sheer joy of childhood, and that is a gift. Moving to a new classroom with a different view? The best thing in the world. This is simple living.
The beautiful thing I’ve come to see is this: the ideal of living simply is right before us every day. . . All it takes is just recognizing God, which is actually very easy, because He is everywhere
As I reflect on this reality during the Easter season, my thoughts move to the person of Christ. Jesus spent thirty years of His life on earth just working an ordinary job—He incarnated the humility of simple living and He’s the model for us all. The beautiful thing I’ve come to see is this: the ideal of living simply is right before us every day. Thankfully, it does not require any work on our end. All it takes is just recognizing God, which is actually very easy because He is everywhere. It turns out, all I needed to see this marvelous grace was to spend a year teaching first grade in the Bronx.