Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch
There are some pretty common themes in the writing you see here week by week. I did not start out with this vision in mind. As I reflect, more than anything, I would say, the topics have circled around the idea of intentional living as the source of The Good Life, Aristotle’s not so elusive idea that happiness is possible, possible for anyone, in any circumstances. It is just is not the life of pleasure, power or money we might grow up thinking it is.
Through the blogosphere, I learned about an upcoming title, The Grace of Enough by Haley Stewart. The title was fascinating. Her story, even more so.
Their family was tired. Tired of long hours working. Tired of making just enough. Tired of the isolation of life at home. It was time for a movement. Rather than go the way of more money, which would mean longer hours, less meaningful work, less time together, they decided to make a radical change. Her husband applied for an internship with World Hunger Relief Farm where they both volunteered prior to marriage. Accepted, the family of five sold their home and moved to a 650 square foot apartment on a massive farm and began their education in slow and intentional living.
The author takes her lessons and shares them here. Lessons in:
Slow walks…to savor nature, to notice things, to let her children school her in beauty, wonder and awe.
Intentional home life…it does not need to be fancy, but with greater simplicity, fill it with the things you love, things built to last and say no to fast fashion and fast home design or trends.
Slow food…connecting our food’s origin with its end. Stewart saw her children’s appreciation of their food grow as they learned the process from farm to fork, even the parts we might be tempted to shield from our urban children like slaughtering animals so we eat chicken that night. Slow food does not simply mean avoiding the total convenience of buying whatever we want, but taking more time to savor our meals, cook with others, eat together as a family, not rush to next task at hand.
Stewart transitions easily to the conversation of hospitality. Have you ever avoided seeing a neighbor because of how long that conversation will be? I wonder at my neighbor’s patience as my children hold him hostage in his driveway for ten minutes. No doubt he just wants to take off his shoes and relax. But he loves them and engages with them, answering their questions, offering ideas they suspiciously do not hear. It is a lesson in hospitality. I hope we can always afford to share ten minutes connecting with those we encounter.
Those interpersonal relationships spill into the larger community. As a (primarily) stay-at-home mother, the days can be lonely and daunting. The internet became a great connector for me, helping me stay in touch with other mothers with whom friendship deepened. But we are also called to give without return to our communities through volunteer work. That might mean through the church or local non-profits or city activities. We wonder what has happened to society, but with most families requiring dual incomes, the time and space the parent at home might have spent volunteering is devoted to other, though also important things.
Stewart goes deeper in reflection to the internal sources of our disconnect. Some of her statements might not square with those of other faith or non-faith traditions. She acknowledges this. Regardless, she adds that the fascination remains, how do we rebuild our lives into something meaningful? How can this option be available for any person regardless of socioeconomic status?
“The Grace of Enough” operates as a guide for reflection on how we can pursue today, the good life Aristotle described, almost 1700 years after Aristotle wrote about it in the “Nicomachean Ethics”. I walked away from this book feeling supported in our choices, inspired by the ideas and challenged to do more. I highly recommend it.