A Face Painter That Saves Lives?

By Maleny Quiroz

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – It was reported this morning that a face painter working for Bronco Week at Santa Clara University saved the life of a student as he was about to fall on concrete from a nearby jumper. “It has always been my dream to save lives,” the face painter told CNS, “so when I saw that a young man was about to crack his skull on the concrete, I jumped on the opportunity.”

Except this didn’t exactly happen, at least not at Santa Clara.

photo (6)That scenario was going through my head as I was getting my face painted on campus a few weeks ago. I was thinking, what do these people think of their jobs? Do they just do it for fun? Or, do they think that they’re making a positive contribution to society? And then my old self came to mind: the hopeful girl that thought that in order to be good enough, she had to hold an important job in the future that would save lives, something like a scientist that would find the cure to cancer. I wanted to make a difference, a lasting impact. However, I soon found out that Biology wasn’t really my thing and I didn’t actually like spending time in a lab. As I made the 360° turn from biology to languages, I found myself second guessing my decision. I heard comments, “Haha but seriously, what are you studying?” quite a few times and thus it would lead me to insecurities. What if my career doesn’t really help anyone? Am I doing enough? Needless to say, I was often worried about not making a difference with the career I had chosen.

However, since then I’ve learned that God assigns everyone a specific vocation, and as Gerhard Lohfink would say in his book Jesus of Nazareth: What He Wanted, Who He Was, “everyone who lives her or his specific calling ‘entirely’ lives ‘perfectly.’” As for doing and being enough, he reminds us that “not everyone can be called to everything, but the various callings can work together to form the whole of the people of God.” Which reminds me of something Henri Nouwen said and that I included in a previous post:

Community is like a large mosaic. Each little piece seems so insignificant. One piece is bright red, another cold blue or dull green, another warm purple, another sharp yellow, another shining gold. Some look precious, others ordinary. Some look valuable, others worthless. Some look gaudy, others delicate. As individuals stones, we can do little with them except compare them and judge their beauty and value. When, however, all these little stones are brought together in one big mosaic portraying the face of Christ, who would ever question the importance of any one of them? If one of them, even the least spectacular one, is missing, the face is incomplete. Together in the one mosaic, each little stone is indispensable and makes a unique contribution to the glory of God. That’s community, a fellowship of little people who together make God visible in the world.

Maybe I’ll never save a life, maybe that face painter won’t either. But something that I can say for certain? That lady definitely made my day and made me feel like a joyful purple fairy… and sometimes that’s exactly what God calls some people to do.


¿Una pinta caritas que salva vidas?

Por Maleny Quiroz

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Se informó esta mañana que una pinta caritas trabajando durante la semana de los broncos en la Universidad de Santa Clara, salvó la vida de un estudiante cuando estaba a punto de caer de un brincolin cercano hacia el pavimento. “Siempre ha sido mi sueño salvar vidas,” la pinta caritas le dijo a CNS, “así que cuando vi que un joven estaba a punto de descalabrarse en el pavimento, salté a la oportunidad.”

Excepto que esto en realidad no paso, al menos no en Santa Clara.

photo (6)Esa historia estaba pasando por mi mente mientras me estaban pintando la cara en el campus. Estaba pensando, ¿qué piensan estas personas de su trabajo? ¿Sólo lo hacen para divertirse? O piensan que están haciendo una contribución positiva a la sociedad? Y entonces quien era yo en el pasado se me vino a la mente: la niña esperanzada que pensaba que para ser lo suficientemente buena, tenía que tener un trabajo importante en el futuro que podría salvar vidas, algo así como una científica que encontrara la cura para el cáncer. Yo quería hacer una diferencia, un impacto duradero. Sin embargo, pronto me di cuenta de que la biología no era lo mío y en realidad no me gustaba pasar tiempo en un laboratorio. Al hacer un giro de 360 ​​° de la biología a los idiomas, me encontré dudando de mi decisión. Escuchaba comentarios así, “Jaja, pero en serio, ¿qué estás estudiando?” una buena cantidad de veces, lo que me llevaría a inseguridades. ¿Qué pasa si mi carrera en realidad no ayuda a nadie? ¿Estoy haciendo lo suficiente? No hace falta decir que a menudo me preocupaba no hacer una diferencia con la carrera que había elegido.

Sin embargo, desde entonces he aprendido que Dios asigna a cada uno una vocación específica, y como Gerhard Lohfink diría en su libro Jesús de Nazaret: lo que quería, quién era “todo el que vive su vocación específica ‘completamente’ vive ‘perfectamente.'” En cuanto a hacer y ser suficiente nos recuerda que “no todo el mundo puede ser llamado a todo, pero los diversos llamados pueden trabajar juntos para formar el conjunto del pueblo de Dios.” Lo cual me recuerda algo que Henri Nouwen dijo y que incluí en una entrada anterior:

La comunidad es como un gran mosaico. Cada pequeña pieza parece tan insignificante. Una pieza es de color rojo brillante, otra azul frío o verde opaco, otra morado cálido, otra fuerte amarillo, otra oro brillante. Algunas parecen preciosas, otras ordinarias. Algunas parecen valiosas, otras sin valor. Unas se ven llamativas, otras delicadas. Como piedras individuas, poco podemos hacer con ellas excepto comparar y juzgar su belleza y valor. Cuando, sin embargo, todas estas pequeñas piedras se juntan en un gran mosaico que muestran el rostro de Cristo, ¿quién cuestionaría la importancia de cualquiera de ellas? Si una de ellas, incluso la menos espectacular, no está, la cara está incompleta. Juntas en un mosaico, cada piedra es indispensable y hace una contribución única a la gloria de Dios. Eso es la comunidad, una hermandad de gente pequeña que juntos hacen a Dios visible en el mundo.

Tal vez yo nunca vaya a salvar una vida, tal vez esa pinta caritas tampoco. Pero algo que puedo decir con certeza es que esa muchacha sin duda hizo mi día y me hizo sentir como un hada morada alegre … y a veces eso es exactamente lo que Dios llama a algunas personas a hacer.

Is Our Compassion Drying Up?

By Edward Carrillo

borderissues-17With Obama’s new immigration reform being struck down by U.S. Federal District Judge Andrew S. Hannen, it has many of us wondering what is to happen next in this controversial topic of immigration here in the United States. Immigration has always been a touchy subject for many Americans since the Naturalization Act of 1790, and continues to be one here in our country. It is difficult to say what is to happen next in this grand debate put forward by our bipartisan democracy, but one thing that I am sure of is that we as Americans share a moral responsibility to save the lives of the many who die each year crossing the U.S/Mexico border trying to enter our country.

These are people who have dreamt about coming into the United States their entire life, people who have left their families back in their home countries, people risking their lives for a better future. We often tend to forget about the lives of these people because of the racial slurs we have put upon them. We call these people “illegals.” We call these people “aliens.” But in reality, all they really are is human.

Our culture has desensitized us to relating to today’s undocumented immigrants, but many of us often forget about how we all came into this nation. We are all different as Americans, but we all share one thing in common, that thing being is that at one point in our family history there was a decision made to come to this country for a better life.

Of course there are a few exceptions, but the majority of us made a willing decision to come into this country. Today hundreds of immigrants die across our borders and surprisingly enough it isn’t from violence but from something we often take for granted: food and water. The treacherous journey to get to the United States kills many human beings each year. We can all agree that water is an essential item for human beings to have. Regardless of what your beliefs are on immigration, we need to take responsibility as human beings for the deaths that happen across our borders due to dehydration.

We share a moral responsibility to take care of one another on this earth, and this is often overlooked at our borders because we often dehumanize undocumented immigrants. Contrary to rapper Drake’s new album, if you are reading this it is not too late. We still have the power and resources to change the lives of many, we can start to save human lives across the border by spreading awareness of this matter.

During this time of Lent please consider your privileges, consider the things God has done for you, and make the change God would want you to do on this earth. We are our Lord’s servants, and the Lord is asking for us all to look after the lives of those of the dying, for he is one that has experienced the same.

edEdward Carrillo is a junior at California State University Sacramento double majoring in Government and Ethnic Studies, with a concentration in Latino/a studies. On campus Edward works as a resident advisor for Housing and Residential Life, is an advocate for social justice issues, and enjoys doing yoga and tennis. He hopes that one day his writings can teach others to be advocates for justice throughout the world. Check him out on Twitter and Instagram or email him at edwardscarrillo@csus.edu if you are interested in continuing the conversation about ethical considerations surrounding immigration.

Rethinking Lent

By Jenni Sigl

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetThis Wednesday will begin the season of Lent. For those of us who identify as Christian but do not explicitly identify as Catholic, Lent can be a bit tricky. You might be spending a lot of time thinking about whether or not you should give something up or attend Ash Wednesday service. Even for those who are of the Catholic faith, Lent can be a tricky time to navigate. It may be time to rethink how we go about participating in Lent.

Historically, Lent is a period of 40 weekdays that spans over about seven and a half weeks where Christians devote themselves to fasting, abstinence and penitence in commemoration of Christ. If you are already feeling intimidated after reading that last sentence, do not worry, you are not alone.

As someone who is not a member of the Catholic Church, I have always been a little confused as to how to go about Lent. My intentions are always good, but somehow I always get lost in the technicalities that Lent seems to entail. I by no means am advocating that the traditional rules of Lent be thrown out the window, but rather suggesting that everyone participate in Lent in a way that is right for them.

Whether you identify as Catholic or not, Lent can be celebrated in a number of different ways. But, one common thread that connects everyone throughout this time should be their motives and intentions in participating.

At the end of the day, Lent is a time to get closer to God. We fast because the time we would have spent eating or preparing meals is instead spent reading the Bible or saying a prayer. We deprive ourselves of luxuries and pleasures with the hope that we will spend that time instead with God and reflecting on his presence in our lives.

I was having dinner with a friend last week when the topic of Lent came up and I asked her about her plan. For her, she plans to set a time every day to journal and pray. Journaling is something that she enjoys doing, but often gets pushed aside when everyday obligations and tasks take over. For those wishing to participate in Lent, this is a very practical and meaningful way to do so.

After giving the topic a great deal of thought, we should decide how to celebrate the season of Lent. Yes, celebrate. Remembering the life of Christ and growing in one’s faith is truly a celebration. If we do decide to deprive ourselves of a luxury, it should be with specific intentions to reallocate that time towards Christ.

Do not be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to Lent. Do what is right for you and create a plan that will bring you closer to God instead of make you feel deprived. Instead of thinking, “What am I giving up for Lent?” ask yourself, “What are my hopes for Lent?” Whatever you choose let it be for the glory of God and with the intention of deepening your faith.

I’m Going to Church

By Levina Robin

The most common response I get is “Why?” or “Oh, you go to church?” and a few “I didn’t know you were Catholic/religious.” My favorite one is, “Is your mother making you?” I used hate answering these questions and then today I realized, I should enlighten them.

imageWhy do I go to church? I go to church because I love being in a place where my worries disappear. I go to church not solely because I’m Catholic, but because I believe in something greater than me. I go to church because I love the way strangers can come together for an hour every week. I go to church because of the smiles on everyone’s face during the peace offerings. I go to church because of the joy it brings me to hold the elderly woman’s hand next to me, the way her hands are soft, fragile and shaking, just a sign of all the experiences she’s had in life. I go to church to gain new insight and experiences from the people who have already been through what I am going through today. I go to church so I can sing my heart out and people still think I sound beautiful. I go to church to lector the beautiful word of God, even if I don’t completely understand it. I go to church because of how wonderful life feels afterwards. I go to church because of the tears that emerge in my eyes when I see the old man in front of me slowly slip his fingers into his wife’s hands as they probably have their whole life. I go to church because I have since I was a little girl and it makes me feel connected with India, with my family, with my culture, with my childhood, with my middle school, and with my high school. I remember coming to college and meeting my now best friend, Garrett and being so happy to have someone to go to church with and singing our hearts out. No, my mom isn’t making me but it’s one of my favorite things to do with my mommy. It’s one of the only times I get to hug her and show her how much I appreciate her. It was really hard for me to go to church today, I went alone for the first time in my life, but I left my phone on my bed and just walked away to the mission, and the world opened up to me. So there it is, just a few of the absolutely wonderful reasons I go to church. Catholic or not, I dare you to try it out one day. Who knows, you might love it, or maybe you’ll hate it. Open up your mind, because why not!

P.S. If you ever need someone to attend a mass with, I would be more than happy to enlighten you with the beauty that is the church.

Thorns and Roses

By Maleny Quiroz

Telling someojesus lovene that you would do anything for them is quite dangerous… especially if that someone is Jesus. I’ve noticed that especially after joyful moments where I tell God that I give myself completely to Him, suffering starts to creep in. In my case, this takes the form of distractions that make me doubt. I tend to get distracted easily, and the devil takes advantage of this so that I lose my focus on God.

That was the third time I had a spiritual attack where I start to doubt everything. Like sleep paralysis, it’s not a pleasant experience at all. But also like sleep paralysis, this wasn’t the first time it happened. For those that don’t know, sleep paralysis is the inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up (while fully conscious), accompanied by terrifying hallucinations, due to the fact that the sleep and body cycles don’t align on time. The first time it happened to me, it was quite scary. I heard terrifying noises and felt an evil presence near me, but I couldn’t scream or move in what felt were like hours. After I learned what it was, it was still hard, but the following times since I was aware of what it was, I wasn’t as afraid anymore. The same thing happens to me when doubts and confusion attack my faith.

I hate to focus on small details about Mass or the Bible that I don’t understand, because I end up losing the joy that normally feel when I’m with God. Fortunately, I’m now more aware of this bad habit, so I try to stop it so it doesn’t consume me, so that the devil won’t eat me, as “No dejes que” by Jaguares suggests. Through that song, I’ve learned more about the constant spiritual battle that we have to live when we entrust ourselves completely to God, for love without suffering is not love.

A good example of a person who understands the suffering in love and joy is St. Thérèse of Lisieux, which can be seen in her poem “My Joy!”. Here’s an excerpt from one of my works to explain the expression of love in this poem:

God seeks response from us by sending us His son, to have a sense of mutuality with us. St. Thérèse seeks response from Jesus by imitating Him in His suffering. “The thorns mingled with the flowers” express the suffering of the cross intermingled with the joy of the resurrection that complete love. By talking about thorns, Thérèse also refers to the crown of thorns of Jesus, so she “accept[s] with gratitude” the pain of Jesus in order to have a mutual connection with Him. The mutual relationship between St. Thérèse is also present with tangible imagery, such as when she talks about “Jesus tak[ing her] by the hand” and “cover[ing] Him with caresses.” By doing so, Thérèse sees Jesus as her family, as her father, as her “Divine Little Brother,” and as her faithful husband. Just as Jesus is faithful, she wishes to express faithfully her gratitude and love, even if that means suffering.

St. Thérèse says that her “joy is to love suffering,” however, her suffering is not for herself, but rather for the profound love that she has for God and for others. St. Thérèse demonstrates her self-giving love for others when she says “My joy is to struggle unceasingly / To bring forth spiritual children.” In the English version it says “spiritual children”, but in the original French version the words are “des élus”, which translates better as “the elected” meaning the elected to go to Heaven. Thus, just like Jesus died and suffered for our salvation, Thérèse wishes to do the same. She wants to return all the love that Jesus gave for all of us in the cross as she says, “For you, my Divine Little Brother, / I’m happy to suffer.” Though it may seem like St. Thérèse focuses on the cross throughout “My Joy!”, the fact that she uses the word “joy” various times in the poem, allows for the ultimate love in the faith of resurrection to peek through.

The love message of St. Thérèse of Lisieux blooms to its peak in the last stanza when she unveils the eternality of her love. She doesn’t care if she lives or she dies as long as she can love Jesus. “What do life and death matter to me? / Jesus, my joy, is to love you!” This means that her love for God transcends time and space, since even if she reaches old age and after she leaves Earth, she will continue loving Jesus.

Just as Jesus took the position of a slave to create a mutual love with us, St. Thérèse wishes to lower herself to have a mutual understanding of the suffering that He had to go through. She takes the thorns and the cross in gratitude. Thérèse endures the fight of pain to help others go to Heaven. Yet, her joy never fleets, because she places all her love and joy in the Eternal: in God.

When we wake up from sleep paralysis to reality, the body and the mind cycle align. In a similar way, when our time (chronos) aligns with God’s time (kairos), we awaken to the truth and see the reason behind everything.

After much confusion and moments of anguish, God allowed me to see a small glimpse into His reality. I asked him many questions to which he answered mostly with a “Don’t worry” or a “It’s better to leave it as a surprise.” But that wasn’t the only time God replied, He still does day by day in unexpected ways, not always with words, but ultimately leaving me with the same message: that I should focus on His love.


Espinas y rosas

Por Maleny Quiroz

jesus loveDecirle a alguien que harías cualquier cosa por él o por ella es algo bastante peligroso… especialmente si ese alguien es Jesús. Me he dado cuenta que especialmente después de momentos llenos de alegría en los que le digo a Dios que me entrego completamente a Él, es cuando empieza a entrar el sufrimiento. En mi caso, este se presenta en forma de distracciones que me hacen dudar. Yo tiendo a distraerme muy fácilmente, entonces el diablo se aprovecha de esto para que yo pierda mi enfoque en Dios.

Esa fue la tercera vez que tuve un ataque espiritual en el que empiezo a dudar de todo. Al igual que la parálisis del sueño, no es una experiencia nada placentera. Pero también al igual que la parálisis del sueño, no es la primera vez que me pasa. Para aquellos que no sepan, la parálisis del sueño es la incapacidad de moverse o hablar al empezar a dormirse o despertarse (estando completamente consiente), acompañada de alucinaciones aterrorizantes, a causa de que el ciclo del sueño y aquel del cuerpo no se alinean a tiempo. La primera vez que me pasó fue absolutamente tenebroso. Escuchaba ruidos macabros y sentía una presencia malévola cerca de mí, pero no podía gritar o moverme por lo que sentían eran horas. Después de que aprendí lo que era, siguió siendo algo difícil, pero las siguientes veces, ya estaba consciente de lo que era y ya no me dio tanto miedo. Lo mismo me pasa cuando mi fe se ve atacada por dudas y confusión.

Odio enfocarme en detalles tan pequeños acerca de la misa o la Biblia que no entiendo, porque acabó perdiendo la alegría que normalmente siento al estar con Dios. Afortunadamente, estoy más consciente de esta maña mía entonces trato de pararla para que no me consuma, para que no me coma el diablo, como lo sugiere “No dejes que”de Caifanes. A través de esa canción, he podido aprender más sobre la batalla espiritual constante que se debe vivir cuando uno se entrega totalmente a Dios, porque amor sin sufrimiento no es amor.

Un buen ejemplo de una persona que entiende muy bien el sufrimiento dentro del amor y la alegría es Santa Teresita del niño Jesús, lo cual se puede ver en su poema “¡Mi alegría!” A continuación, un extracto de una obra mía para explicar la expresión de amor en este poema:

Dios busca una respuesta de nosotros enviándonos a su hijo, para tener un sentido de reciprocidad con nosotros. Santa Teresita busca una respuesta de Jesús imitándolo en su sufrimiento. “Las flores [mezcladas con] espinas” expresan el sufrimiento de la cruz mezclada con la alegría de la resurrección que completan el amor. Al hablar de espinas, Teresa también se refiere a la corona de espinas de Jesús, por lo que con “gratitud… acepta” el dolor de Jesús, a fin de tener una conexión mutua con Él… Así como Jesús es fiel, ella desea expresar fielmente su gratitud y amor, aun si eso significa sufrir.

Santa Teresita dice que su “alegría es amar el sufrimiento”, sin embargo, su sufrimiento no es por sí misma, sino más bien por el profundo amor que le tiene a Dios y a los demás. Santa Teresa demuestra su amor que le entrega a los demás, cuando ella dice: “Mi alegría es luchar siempre, sin tregua, / a fin de prohijar más elegido.” Al decir “elegido”, se refiere a los elegidos para ir al Cielo. Por lo tanto, al igual que Jesús murió y sufrió por nuestra salvación, Teresita desea hacer lo mismo. Ella quiere devolverle todo el amor que Jesús nos dio en la cruz, como ella dice, ” Me siento afortunada cuando sufro / por ti, divino Niño, mi hermanito.” A pesar de que puede parecer que Santa Teresita se centra en la cruz a lo largo de “¡Mi alegría!”, el hecho de que utiliza la palabra “alegría” varias veces en el poema, permite que se asome el amor ultimado en la fe de la resurrección.

El mensaje de amor de Santa Teresita del Niño Jesús florece a su punto máximo en la última estrofa cuando ella descubre la eternidad de su amor. No le importa si vive o si muere, siempre y cuando ella pueda amar a Jesús. “¿Qué me importa la vida o la muerte? / ¡Si mi alegría es amarte con pasión!” Esto significa que su amor por Dios trasciende el tiempo y el espacio, ya que incluso aunque llegue a la vejez y después de que abandone la Tierra, seguirá amando a Jesús.

Así como Jesús tomó la posición de un esclavo para crear un amor mutuo con nosotros, Santa Teresa desea bajarse a sí misma para tener una comprensión mutua de los sufrimientos que Él tuvo que pasar. Ella toma las espinas y la cruz en gratitud. Teresita perdura la lucha de dolor para ayudar a los demás a ir al cielo. Sin embargo, su alegría no es momentánea, porque ella pone todo su amor y alegría en el Eterno: en Dios.

Cuando despertamos de la parálisis del sueño a la realidad, se alinean los dos relojes, el mental con el corporal. De una manera similar, cuando se alinea nuestro reloj (cronos) con el de Dios (kairos), despertamos a la verdad y vemos su razón detrás de todo.

Tras mucha confusión y momentos de angustia, Dios me permitió un pequeño vistazo a su realidad. Le hice muchas preguntas a las cuales Él me respondió en su mayoría con un “No te preocupes” o con un “Es mejor dejarlo como sorpresa.” Pero esa no fue la única vez en la que Dios me respondió, lo sigue haciendo día a día de maneras inesperadas, no siempre con palabras, pero ultimadamente dejándome con el mismo mensaje: que me enfoque en su amor.

Guest Post: SEARCH Experience

By Erica Valle

Erica is a junior accounting major originally from Bellevue, WA. She enjoys her various involvements on campus (APB, AKPsi, CSL) and in her free time loves hiking, eating, and just soaking up everything Silicon Valley and California have to offer.
Growing up, I always had trouble wrapping my mind around these big ideas of God, faith, and prayer. Whenever someone tried to discuss these topics with me, I felt I couldn’t contribute because I wasn’t sure how these things all played out in my life. Though whenever I went to church with my parents, I would listen to sermons about faith and God, bow my head to pray, attend faith formation, all with a surface level understanding of religion. I was going through the motions, without really knowing what any of it meant.

Since coming to Santa Clara, I have tried to explore the role religion plays in my life but it has been difficult to figure out. Do I believe in God? What or who is God for me? What is faith? How are you supposed to pray? The opportunities to truly dive into this are few, especially for an overly involved college student, surrounded by many people who are also questioning their faith.

Enter Gus Hardy. After initially withdrawing my spot on the spring Search retreat, he says I can’t miss this opportunity. He uses a coin-flipping app on his phone to convince me that fate has made the decision for me – so I make the last minute arrangements to re-register and I get excited for what I think will be a typical retreat experience, similar to those I’ve had in the past.

The retreat itself was meaningful and worthwhile, but not at all what I expected. The talks were great, I met some new people, and I learned a lot of perspective – all good things that for which you go on a retreat. What was weird to me was that I never cried (for people that know me, that will seem weird), I didn’t really talk or share as much as I expected to, and I walked away with a lot more questions than answers. This retreat is what I would call my first profound introspection and self-reflection that I’ve had in a long time, or maybe ever. Based on my past experiences with retreats, and the hype of the Search retreat on campus, I expected my Search experience to be this large, emotional, earth-shaking experience. Instead, I walked away on the last day with peace.

What brought the experience full circle was JC Landry’s homily at the mass after returning to campus. She talked about faith in terms of a physical analogy of a doorway, which made the idea of faith seem like it wasn’t this big, ambiguous concept that was impossible to understand. She made me see that there was a reason why the retreat came at the time that it did and that there was a point to it all, even if at times it seems a little unclear.

Since my Search experience, I have been able to nail down a little bit of what religion looks like in my life. Faith is letting life pull you in different directions and knowing it will all work out. Prayer is coming to understand what life’s different directions mean. And this idea of God the different people in my life who walk with me in these different directions.

Guest Post: Some Perspective on Environmentalism

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Hannah Maryanski is a junior at Santa Clara University, double majoring in English and Environmental Studies. In her spare time, she enjoys running, playing guitar, tap dancing, and drinking Fair Trade coffee. Hannah wants to work in food policy after graduation to create a more just and sustainable food system. If you liked this piece, read her blog, Where’s My Wit, at http://www.hmaryanski.wordpress.com

What comes to mind when you think of an environmentalist? Perhaps it’s a thick-bearded man chained to a Redwood tree, a “freegan” woman who digs through supermarket discards for dinner, a Levi’s CEO who never washes his jeans. While these Portlandia stereotypes are certainly out there, we environmentalists come in many shades.

We are the Santa Clara University students from every major urging for divestment from fossil fuels. We are the moms who teach our children to recycle before their first day of Kindergarten. We are the Nicaraguan coffee farmers who responsibly maintain our land in the midst of pesticide pressure.

In short, the word environmentalist has a needlessly negative connotation. We are not all liberal, impractical, and idealistic. We’re not just dreamers without a sense of economic sustainability, foreign affairs, or bureaucracy. I would argue that being an environmentalist requires nothing more than a single additional act or mindset with the needs of our earth in mind. We don’t all have to be gung-ho greenies, but if you can manage one small act of environmental consciousness daily, it matters.

The fact is, most of our systems are linear and we live on a finite planet. Basically, the majority of what we consume—petroleum, smartphones, laundry detergents—is designed to just “disappear” into atmosphere, landfills, and waterways. It’s unsettlingly the foundation of our culture. Says Victor Lebow, a famous American economist, in 1995, “Our enormously productive economy demands we make consumption our way of life…convert buying of goods into rituals…seek spiritual satisfaction…ego satisfactions in consumption…” Our consumerist culture is designed to give us “spiritual satisfaction.” Has consumption become our prayer? Think about that the next time you decide to upgrade your iPhone just because “it’s time.”

Here’s the problem with our current patterns of consumption: the rest of our planet isn’t linear. Everything else on earth operates in cycles: cycles of life, of chemical elements, of water. It’s simple logic that we emulate this in order to sustain not only human life as we know it, but also the integrity of our fragile home. Sustainability is often described as “meeting the needs of the present without jeopardizing the needs of the future.” In your daily life, what are small changes you can make to live cyclically? Recycling your soda cans, using reusable water bottles, starting a compost bin in your backyard, donating your clothes instead of throwing them away—each of these actions, in a small way, preserves the future for the generations to come. Let us find spiritual satisfaction in that.

No one is perfect. Not everyone can chain themselves to Redwoods or go diving after plastic bottles when someone else throws them in the trash bin. But when you can make a simple lifestyle change with the needs of the planet in mind, you are an environmentalist, too. My favorite reminder when I start to get lazy? The words of environmental activist Vandana Shiva: “You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.” Remember your own smallness at the hands of this planet, but remember your power over her future. Challenge your image of the environmentalist and become one yourself.