Today is the last day of work for the 2013-2014 Boston YAVs. Tomorrow is our last day in Boston together, and on Friday we officially move out of the house. Surreal is an accurate description. I have been waiting for this day for a very long time for several reasons, and I have been dreading it as well. This year has gone by so fast, some parts have dragged on, it’s been one of the hardest and loneliest times in my life, and I’ve made the fastest and deepest connections with 3 people who were strangers a year ago.
The hardest part about leaving Boston is saying goodbye to the other 3 volunteers who I have been living in intentional community with this year.
Kathleen and I were friends on facebook for a couple weeks before coming to Boston, so even though I hadn’t met her I felt like I knew her. When she posted about listening to Prairie Home Companion on NPR after church on Sunday I knew without a doubt that we would get along. Turns out we both have a particular inclination (read obsession) for cheese. Sometimes we just sit around the kitchen and talk about much we like to eat it; we’ve decided cheese is our love language. Kathleen has a secret power we call “tastpertise,” she always knows what a dish needs or what a recipe is lacking to make it taste delicious. She has been my go-to guru for cooking new dishes, what to compost or recycle, what beers are worth trying, and how to grow any and all vegetables. This year Kathleen has been working with Hartford St. Presbyterian Church in Natick as well as A Place to Turn, a choice food pantry. She works with their clients, stocks and reorganizes the food, and helps with outreach and fundraising campaigns. The goal is to start a community garden between the church and the food pantry to help supply fresh produce.
I met Audrey at the airport before orientation. All I knew about her before was that she was an English major in college and had just spent a year in China teaching. Right away we realized that even though we don’t think we look that much alike, people get the brown hair, pale skin, and especially when we both wear glasses, confused. We have both been called each other’s name and have been asked if we’re sisters on a regular basis. Audrey and I have bonded over being English major nerds and can talk for hours about feminism, pop culture, Jane Austen, and theology. She was especially interested in the intentional Christian community aspect of the program and is a strong supporter of the idea, and we have all learned from her about honesty and conflict resolution. Audrey has been working with the Church of the Covenant in Boston and the Women’s Lunch Place, a day shelter for women experiencing homelessness or poverty, which is in the church’s basement. WLP has an amazing meals program, they serve 2 delicious and healthy meals every day of the year except Sundays. Audrey has been working to get more sustainable and local sourcing for the food as well as empowering their guests through teaching nutrition classes and encouraging them to shop at farmers markets.
Alex and I met when he came into my room at orientation and said, “Oh they have you in here, too?” After a few awkward minutes we realized even though we were going to be living together and the YAV program is pretty progressive they’re not that progressive. It turns out the guy at the front desk messed up one number in my room assignment, and Alex helped me move rooms. Our relationship has remained just as wacky and ridiculous. Left to our own devices we turn everything into an adventure and make it as complicated and difficult as possible. We manage to fight even when we’re trying to agree with each other, and once had a whole conversation about a book we liked and then realized we were both talking about two different books. This year Alex worked with the Burlington Presbyterian Church as a drop-site for Farmer Dave’s CSA and the Boston Faith and Justice Network. The BFJN teaches economic discipleship, simple living for generous giving as a way to follow Jesus with our whole lives, even our money. I taught their Lazarus at the Gate curriculum at my church and it really opened our eyes to global poverty, how our culture defines having “enough,” and how to really live justly.
God has blessed me with these wonderful people to live with. But that doesn’t mean community life is always easy. We still get into disagreements about eating breakfast together, leaving dishes around the house, not cleaning up the kitchen after cooking, and all those little quirks that get on people’s nerves. But we have all committed to dealing with these issues, having the long, uncomfortable conversations late into the night, getting up to have breakfast together on Mondays and Tuesdays even when we don’t want to, being vulnerable with each other and trusting each other to be accepting and loving, and forgiving when we hurt one another. We have all learned, and are still learning, when to put the community before our personal wants and dislikes as well as when to stand up for ourselves, and that our opinions and feelings are always valid.
We have been taking turns leading devotions every Tuesday, and we have shared and struggled through our theological truths together. By listening to their faith backgrounds, doubts, beliefs, and views of God have helped me think about mine. We each have pieces of the puzzle that we can only learn from each other, and by sharing our love for Jesus and passion for social justice we get a little closer to how God wants us to live in Christian community.