Monthly Archives: October 2011

on community.

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” –Dorothy Day 
 
I haven’t spoken much about the specifics of community life (ie. my four housemates) on this blog so far this year. That choice was intentional—not because we aren’t getting along— out of respect for the privacy of my community members. While I intend to continue on in that fashion for their sakes’ (it’s one thing for me to spill details about my personal life on the internet, but it’s another for me to make that choice for them), I also know that writing about my experience as a JV is incomplete if I do not address this rather large chunk of my life in Boston.

After all, community is one of the four values of JVC, and after the time I put in at Casserly House, the next biggest chunk of time of my time is spent in community. And to be blunt—I really, really love my community, and I am so happy that I get to spend the next year with them.

The emphasis that JVC places on community is actually one of the major reasons why I picked it over other service programs (well, and the fact that SLU taught me to love the Jesuits). College taught me about community on an entirely new level, and I knew that my experience doing a year of service wouldn’t be complete without having other people to intentionally experience it with.

And on a practical level, the idea of moving to a new city where I didn’t know anyone was incredibly intimidating. Already, after just a couple of months together, I can’t imagine what this year would be like without them. I am so glad that I come home from my day at work to people who are ready and willing to be there for whatever I may need (and of course, I am here to reciprocate).

To address the obvious, we are a community of just women, which is not the case for most JV communities. Initially, I had mixed feelings about how that would work out; I think everyone assumes (falsely, and stupidly, if you ask me) that a house full of women is going to be full of drama, but I like that we have proved that stereotype wrong. Yes, in some ways we are stereotypically “girly” (ie. we borrow each other’s nail polish and talk about things like shoes far more than we would if we were a co-ed community), but more importantly, I think it allows us to be able to bond on a different level (not better neccesarily–just different).

More importantly, however, the main reason why I think we have had such a positive experience so far as a community is that we were all clear from the beginning about what we wanted and needed from each other during this experience. And to put it bluntly, we all realize that we need each other to survive this year… because at the end of the day, no one else will understand like they will, what I’ve already been through and what I have yet to go through.

Community is a gift, and I hope that I don’t get to the point where I take it for granted. Living with these women is such a visible confirmation of those words of Dorothy Day at the beginning of this post. This afternoon, I was re-reading part of my journal, and I came across a quote I had written down from Fr. Quinn, one of my favorite Jesuits from SLU, that also sums this idea up: “People are avenues of grace.”

In short: I am so grateful for the blessings of community.

living in the tension.

I’m at the point in the year when I’m beginning to feel faint tinges of homesickness, which is, of course, inevitable. I left Boston city limits for the first time since I arrived here in August this past Sunday to go apple picking with my housemates. Suddenly, I was surrounded by a landscape of rolling hills, fall leaves, and open skies like the one I grew up with. Times like that, I always miss home. It’s difficult not to.

home: last fall break. 

If it’s not that, it’s text messages from friends saying that they’re at Cafe Ventana or the bars around SLU, reminding me of other places I love. It’s hanging out on Google+ with seven of my best friends while we watch Cardinal’s world series games in seven different cities; it’s the fact that we have to resort to technology to be together now, instead of just walking across campus. It’s seeing the Arch on TV instead of from my bedroom window. It’s going to church on Sunday mornings and missing 9pm mass at College Church.  I love home, and I miss home. That’s undeniable.

However, on the other hand, it’s already difficult to imagine my life before JVC, when all of this was just an abstract idea. When I’d never set foot in Boston, Massaschusetts but knew somehow that I was going to live here for a year. When the faces of Casserly House were just images on a computer screen instead of living, breathing people full of determination and curiosity with amazing stories to tell. When my walk to work was just an image on Google Maps instead of my daily routine. When my housemates were just email addresses and one paragraph bio’s on a a mailing from JVC. That all already feels like a very, very long time ago. I suppose that speaks to how much this experience has already begun to shape me. I already can’t imagine life without all of this.

apple picking this fall.

There’s a tension in all of this, between what I’ve loved and and what I’m learning to love. And that’s something I’ve been wrestling with: the question of how I’m going to take this experience as a JV and integrate it into the larger scale of my life. It’s a challenge to let this experience impact all situations of my life–not just when it’s convienent.

Last Sunday, the pastor at St. Cecelia’s (a place I really am learning to love, even though I will always miss College Church) closed the mass with a line about wrestling with the Gospel, and I think that truth is so key for our lives. Life is messy. Faith is just as messy. But if I truly believe the idea of “finding God in all things,” I know that He’s there in the midst of all of that. To see God in black and white–to see our messy realities in black and white–is something I think we are often tempted to do, but it’s oversimplification at it’s worst. Part of what I’m trying to do this year is live in the tension, the messiness, the chaos, and the confusion, simply because I know that’s where I see God do the most work; I know that’s where I’m called to be as I figure out how where I’ve been impacts where I’m going.

month two.

Month one went fast, but month two was faster. I can’t believe I’m already writing this post. Month one was all about transition; month two was about settling in.

During the beginning of the past month, I met with a spiritual director for the first time in Boston. As part of our session, she suggested that I spent the time until our next meeting reflecting on a scripture passage, specifically this passage and the question, “What are you looking for?” I’ve had the passage running through my mind ever since, and thus am using it to sort my experiences for the past month.

they heard Him speak.
first day/week of after school program. meeting and loving the kids. saying goodbye to eileen. conquering dried beans. bean burritos. greek festival. free concert at the esplanade. jp licks. meeting my spiritual director. john 1:35-39. mass at st. ignatius and young adult group meet and greet.

why yes, that is jvc spelled out in cheese it’s.

and they followed Him.
first red sox game. ridiculous questions. wonderful students. two boxes from mom. spaghetti with tomato sauce. modern family. birthday suits. an hour wait at a bus stop. theology on tap. the beginning of fall. realizations. running the esol program by myself and teaching two classes at the same time. baking red velvet cupcakes. cristina’s birthday. portland and hartford visits. jvc fenway fundraiser. open bar. thirty baseballs. foleys with portland and general ridiculousness. mass at the paulist center.

jvc fenway fundraiser.

and He said to them, “what are you looking for?”
teaching, teaching, teaching. busy schedules. creamy spinach pasta. getting hit by a bike. black bean soup + cornbread. glee and the biggest “small” calzone i’ve ever seen. running casserly house by myself for real. parent’s visit. freedom trail. sam adams at sam adam’s grave. north end pastries. breakfast at a greek restaurant. local food festival. exploring jp + forest hills. cardinal’s game at foley’s. failed mad men parties. mass (and dogs!) at st. cecelia’s. oktoberfest in harvard square. parker house hotel. lots of wandering and a couple “see you later’s.”

with my parents at the public garden.
arnold arboretum.

“come, and you will see.”
a long, tiring week. casserly house board meeting. baked potato soup + irish soda bread. nights in. red october and lots of time on mlb.com gameday. arboretum tour [photo to the left taken at the arborteum]. journal writing. self-care. baking more bread. greek festival: take two. magner’s at galway house. st. cecelia’s. community day at the public garden. mission statements and diads. zumba on the balcony. new (to me) mattress. hillary’s arrival. day of reflection at the jes res. community as a gift (because it is). one-on-one at jp licks. pc visit to casserly house. community night playing spoons.

community day at the public garden.

working for the weekend.

It’s gorgeous in Boston this afternoon. (Gorgeous just so happens to be one of the words I taught my ESOL students this morning.) And it looks like the rest of the weekend is shaping up to be just a wonderful.

It’s already hard to believe that just a week ago my parents were here in Boston. We had a wonderful few days together.

They flew in Friday morning, and I was able to meet up with them after a half day of work. Their hotel was located near the Prudential Center, and after I dropped some things off, we started walking, and walking, and walking… to Copley Square, where we checked out the Boston Public Libary; to Boston Common, where we picked up the Freedom Trail; to Sam Adam’s grave, where we decided it would be appropriate to drink a Sam Adams at the bar across the street; to the North End, where our wandering ended as we enjoyed an evening of Italian food, pastries, and gelato. We then decided to take the T back to their hotel.

I spent the night at the hotel that night, and honestly, it was a little bit weird to spend the night away from our house/community. I haven’t done that since moving to Boston. My parents and I ate breakfast together on Saturday, then headed to the Boston Local Food Festival. The Local Food Festival was a lot of fun, and it was great to see so many passionate people about good, local food!

After the food festival, we headed back to my neck of the woods in Jamaica Plain so my mom could see our house/neighborhood. We spent the rest of the day in JP, and I gave them a house tour and showed them Forest Hills Cemetary (one of my favorite places in this entire city). They were also able to meet up with most of roommates who met us at Foley’s where we ate pizza and watched the Cardinal’s game.

On Sunday, we headed north to Harvard Square in Cambridge, where there was an Oktoberfest celebration going on. While not at all authentic, it was still a lot of fun. We spent the rest of the day wandering around Boston and doing things like eating at the Parker House Hotel (originator of Boston Cream Pie & Parker House Rolls, as well as the place where JFK proposed to Jackie O) and taking touristy pictures outside of the Cheers bar. Eventually, we had to say goodbye, and they headed back to Missouri in the morning.

It was wonderful to have my parents here and show them pieces of my life in Boston. I miss them already. As much as I love Boston and JVC, the hardest part about it is being away from my family. (Closely followed by being away from friends.) I can’t wait to see them again.

this is my life.

I spent 12 straight hours at Casserly House today because of our board meeting this evening. While that sounds somewhat exhausting (and I admit, sort of was), I also had this really beautiful moment in the midst of the craziness of the after school program. Suddenly, it just hit me that this is really it. This is my life now: Casserly House, JVC, Boston. This is real life; this is my life. And I couldn’t stop smiling.
As this year goes on, I know that I will have many difficult moments; in many ways, that is a reality of choosing to do this program. The struggle is part of the process, and it’s supposed to be that way. But at the end of the day, I know without a doubt that this is where I’m supposed to be. I honestly can’t imagine being anywhere else for this year.
I know that these moments of clarity are going to be part of what pulls me through this year. These are rare, beautiful moments when for two seconds everything falls in place and I am able to see past the mundane–past the three kids yelling my name, past the endless to do list’s, past the little luxuries I’m learning to do without–to see a glimpse of what is real and wonderful about this work I am privileged to do everyday.
One of my favorite quotes (it’s actually on the sidebar of this blog) sums up a lot of how I feel about life and this experience, so I’m going to post it again, just because I think it is applicable to the situations that a lot of us find ourselves in: 

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” —Roald Dahl