Growing In Community
by Catherine Roberts
Catherine is a Loretto Volunteer in our Washington, DC house, serving at Interfaith Voices radio show.
When you grow up, go to high school, go to college, and work your first professional job all in the same city, meeting new people is usually a one-or-two at a time occurrence. The patterns of how I relate to people have evolved only gradually, and most of my relationships are many years old. When I joined the Loretto Volunteer program, "community" was probably the value that I thought about least. I had few expectations beyond getting to know four housemates, perhaps slightly better than I would have had I moved in with strangers independently.
It's still early in the program, and in many ways everything still feels challenging. Successful budgeting, living mindfully, and finding meaning in my work are objectives I have by no means mastered. But the most challenging aspect has also been the most rewarding. Living with a group of people so totally removed from my normal sphere of acquaintance takes a leap of faith - but the intentional community aspect means that my fellow community members are there to catch me.
It's not only my housemates that form this community. Every day for lunch at Interfaith Voices, the whole staff sits down to lunch together, along with the staff of the Quixote Center. It's a simple thing, but taking time to share a meal together seems like a radical practice in today's prevailing work culture. It has become my favorite part of the day.
I have a new piece of advice to offer (in case anyone were ever to solicit it): if you want to learn about yourself, join an intentional community. The personalities around me have showed me new things about myself - as self discoveries tend to go, at least for me, they're things I knew subconsciously but never directly acknowledged. Some are good, like my deeper understanding of the paramount importance of my interpersonal relationships. Some aren't as pleasant, like my tendency toward impatience. All are vital in working to become the best version of myself.
Practicing intentionality in how I relate to people, both at work and at home, is not only proving fruitful in forming new relationships. It's also helping me in my long-standing relationships from home. Being far away from my loved ones is the most difficult part of this whole experience. But better intentionality means that I'm more proactive about both contacting them as well as making our interactions more meaningful.
If this all sounds a bit self-centered, I want to make clear that I would hope that my fellow community members also benefit from my presence. Really, though, I think I'm getting the better end of the deal.
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