I was sentenced to an alarm clock and cold cereal on my first day of kindergarten. I dressed myself, rode my bike to summer activities, and took the yellow bus to school until I got my driver’s license. I was raised to be independent and thrive on it.
Entering the adult world of college and full time employment, I was already accustomed to doing things on my own, usually out of necessity—others are too busy, convenience, schedule. But when seven people attempt to exist in an intentional community (like that of my Jesuit Volunteer Corps house), independent action is like trying to pick up a bowling ball with a standard table spoon.
Here’s what I mean. In mid-October, I was purposely elusive about a speaking forum in which I was asked to participate at Vanderbilt University. I assumed that after a long day at work, my roommates would not care to listen to me talk about the opportunities to use foreign languages in service programs like ours. Allowing my pride to justify, I also reasoned that by myself, no one from my community could see me turn bright red, falter over my words, or catch me on a bluff in front of the students.
The problem was that I needed a ride home from Vanderbilt. I ride the bus, but I did not feel comfortable on the bus by myself after dark. I casually asked for a ride from McP (there are two Matt’s—he goes by McP), and only muttered something about a foreign language service forum at 6:30 somewhere on the east end of campus when he asked why I needed a ride home.
At the program itself, just as I was introduced to the students on my way to the front of the room, McP and Burks (other Matt) walked in the door. Happy to see them, I felt stronger in their presence. I was amazed that they had located me inside a three-mile perimeter and arrived on time. It was a simple act of love, but I felt intense joy because they found me to support me in spite of my elusiveness, and they did it out of want, not necessity. It is a joy that I ordinarily only feel when I recognize the unconditional love of my parents.
This is the unselfish love of a community. I realized that night, during our walk to the car, that I was not on my own and should not try to be. Although I’m still pouring myself a bowl of cold cereal each morning and am back to catching the bus, I can still be a unique person but not have to be so independent from my community of Curt, Clare, Chris, McP (Matt), Burks (Matt), and Lizzie.