I’ve been told many times since my arrival to JPUSA that, “Community is what you make of it.”
As I understand, community is the wide-reaching term meaning to live with lots of people, an eclectic group of individuals with varying senses of style, habits, and perspectives.
Although, that’s very true, in the ebb and flow of this particular season in my life, I tend to rely on the morsel of truth that we are varying individuals.
However, it always makes me laugh a little when I hear those words spoken to someone new to our community. Not too long ago, I would wince at that statement. To me, that was an unwelcome challenge, trying to make something of this communal experience, even if this piece of advice turned out to be given at a pivotal time in my journey of living this way.
Now I appreciate the saying a little more every day. It has been proven time and again in my life and in the lives of my friends who live with me. I even catch myself telling newcomers this same exact thing that I disliked hearing so much.
Living communally is not ideal for everyone, but it can be such a positive experience if you let go of any misconceptions and really commit to life here, in all of its hardships and joys.
Living at JPUSA has made me become more physically, emotionally, and spiritually aware. It has also helped me become better at loving other people well and receiving love from people, which is key.
During my first few months in community, my life almost exclusively consisted of two things: working and sleeping, the latter in copious amounts which left me little time to participate in some more life-giving options, like impromptu game nights, both casual and extensive conversations, Bible studies, or just simply enjoying my neighbors who were milling about in the hallway.
All of those things are plentiful in community, but I didn’t realize this until a few months later, when I started to come around and make an effort to get to know everyone who I was spending so much time with, day in and day out.
So far, I’ve lived in community for over a year, and I’m currently in a busier but happier season of my life, which I can only attribute to my involvement in this place I’ve made a home. There’s a peace in being taken care of, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. It’s also comforting to know that I am given enough support to feel ready to accomplish what is ahead of me, regardless of how daunting it may seem in the moment.
I would have never been able to realize any benefits of living in community, if I hadn’t taken it upon myself to step outside my comfort zone and recognize that there is so much more than we could ever imagine to discover, about ourselves and others if we “make of it” something beneficial.