When entering the Micah Fellowship Program, I made a conscious commitment to intentionally live in community with my fellow SMC students. At first glance, this didn’t seem like it would be so difficult to do. All of us joined the program for the same reason – to serve the Bay Area community. Despite this, things haven’t been as easy as I thought they would be. I now know that this lack of concern about the challenges that come with living in community was a definite oversight on my part.
When I think about diversity, my mind immediately turns to the different cultures, ethnicities and racial backgrounds that are part of a community. I failed to see that diversity is something that is present even when we are stripped of our skin color. When agreeing to move into our small, but cozy, bottom floor apartment in West Oakland, I also agreed to live with three individuals who I did not know. All four of us were put into a house with one thing in common – our passion for serving others. As time went on, the diversity in our household began to emerge. Some watch TV more than others. Some are more religious than others. Some are blunt while others are more reserved. One may have one way of cooking a meal while another may make the same thing entirely differently. Add this to the stress of being in a new place, the anxiety that comes with starting a new job and the assignments we’re completing for this program. Sparks were bound to fly. I don’t think I’d be alone in saying that these last few weeks have been eye opening and exhausting at the same time. Yesterday, another aspect of the diversity in our household made itself known – the way we communicate with one another.
On Monday, we made our weekly trip to the grocery store. Once again, buying groceries is something that seemed so simple but has become much more complex because the program has asked us to spread $100 between four college students every week. This forces us to ask ourselves what is it that we truly need to survive. What luxuries can we eliminate from our lives so that we can live within the budget that has been given to us? Yesterday, our issues at the grocery store led to a heated discussion of how things were going in this house. After about 3 weeks of living together, the tension finally became too much and we all were honest with each other. After a long conversation, we realized that the problem was not about the food we chose to purchase at the grocery store but instead about the ways we choose to communicate with each other in the household. The diversity of our personalities made its presence known. Some were willing to speak more while others were more comfortable with listening.
Honestly, bridges were burned with this discussion. Everyone pointed out issues they had with one another. Things that had gone unspoken were finally being said aloud in front of the entire group. It was especially hard for myself to vocalize the issues I was having in the house. I had learned that being neutral and agreeable was the easiest way to avoid conflict with others. This conversation did not allow me to do that. Though people’s feelings may have been hurt and some may have been surprised by what was being said, I now realize that this process was necessary for growth. Bridges needed to be burned in order to establish deeper and stronger connections with the people I am living with. Tiptoeing around problems wasn’t going to get us anywhere. Though it was difficult, this heated, but necessary, conversation helped the four of us build a new bridge that was much stronger than the first. This one has support beams. Cables that allow for movement yet still keep the structure together. Only time will tell if it can withstand an earthquake… Despite this, I can truly say that this new connection I have with my hosuemates has made me more hopeful than ever in my living situation. I’m excited to see what comes next on our journey together.