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Student Perspective: Tis’ the Season… for Moderation

Liam 2
Liam ’25 is seen here with SJP bandmates Eli ’26, Benedikt ’26 and Jackson ’25.

By Liam Spychala ’25

The following essay was shared during the November 30, 2023 Prayer Service by Liam Spychala ’25.
Saint John’s Prep hosts prayer services three times a month in which students learn about a faith focused topic. Students and faculty are invited to share their perspectives on the topic. The November 30 prayer service focused on Chapter 48 in the Rule of Benedict, focusing on living a life of balance and moderation.

Last week many of us celebrated thanksgiving with our family and friends. A time to be glad for
what we have. And it’s too bad the most thankful and grateful day of year is followed by what I
feel is the most gluttonous day on the calendar, Black Friday. A time where it is easy to get
caught up in all the things. This raises the question:

How can I limit myself from getting too caught up in all of the material goods
and these things in our lives?

Although getting things for ourselves can feel self-centered and uncaring, sometimes it is
necessary and ultimately unavoidable. Realizing where our own priorities lay can be achieved
with a little self reflection. Setting limits and thinking about how much stuff we really need. An
important piece to acknowledging this is comparing ourselves to each other. We do it
constantly, whether we like it or not.
For example, I’m certain my friend Paul has more pairs of jeans than I do. Moderation is all about
restraining ourselves from the unnecessary. Realizing that I don’t need more jeans just because
Paul has more jeans than I do would be an example of this.
By the way, this is not a thought that has actually ever crossed my mind, just a hypothetical. I don’t really think about how many pairs of jeans Paul has.

Examples of excess could be more clothes than you’ll ever actually wear, getting new shoes
just because the off white looks a little “too off white” for your taste, or having a million
products to make you look like you just stepped out of a magazine. And though I doubt you’ll
go home and donate half of your clothes, I hope this spurs you to think about what is important
to you and what is excess.

Gift Giving
I want to shift focus now to gift giving, and getting things for others, since that is what most
people are shopping for on Black Friday, and since we are nearing Christmas, which is
traditionally a time of gift giving.

When a person has many things already, or has everything that is necessary to daily life, we
often scramble to find gifts for them. A story of my grandpa comes to mind: Christmas Eve
day, he goes shopping with my dad looking for a gift for my grandma. Basically anything he
would see on the main aisle was a possibility.
“Here Jay, what do think of the jacket here, ooh Columbia Gear. Or here, what about this
perfume?” It was clear he had no idea what to get for her.

It is times like these where I think no gift at all is better than getting something impersonal and
unimportant. You may say, “Ah, Liam. You’re just cheap.” “Yeah, that’s true,” I would say. But I would also argue that the gifts most needed and least gifted are the ones we cannot see.

In my experience, we benefit most from our peers, our family, and our friends in times of need.
You cannot go to Walmart and buy familial support. You cannot go to Best Buy and get joy or
gratefulness. You cannot go to Costco and buy a pallet of friendship, as convenient as that
would be.
“Hey Jim, back for your friendship package?”
“You know it Dale, things have been a little rough lately, really got to patch it up nice before the holiday season.”

I agree with the sentiment that the occasional, well placed, thoughtful gift really does help lift
spirits and help us to think about others, but knowing when someone else needs important
things like food, shelter, and basic necessities and prioritizing that over dumb gifts for people
who will toss it aside in mid January is something that I think our communities can benefit
from. And there are different ways to do this. Maybe spending time with family and friends
instead of shopping or reaching out to people who you think might need some extra help,
especially as we are approaching finals are just two examples that came to mind.

Moderation is all about knowing when you have enough, but it is also about knowing when
others don’t have enough and using your extra for them rather than yourself. This is something
to think about as we approach this coming holiday season and our thoughts go to those who
are struggling.

Thank you!