It’s Sunday evening. I’m laying on the living room sofa, curled up under the tattered quilt that has been in our house I don’t even know how many years – its blue and white calico fabric is torn and frayed, and the fluffy cotton lining pokes out in several places. But it’s warm and soft. I’m half immersed in the book I’m reading and half listening to the conversation that’s happening in the kitchen, two rooms away. The house smells delicious – stuffed peppers and homemade mac and cheese are in the oven. I am content.
Without warning, someone wanders down the stairs into the living room and crawls right on top of me, engulfing me in a warm roommate hug. Without a word, she snuggles down beside me on the couch, knocking my book to the floor. I don’t complain – I needed a hug, anyway. For fifteen minutes, we just sit there, not talking, occasionally giggling at something one of our housemates says to another.
No, this is not a scene from “Girls.” This is a love story – but not the kind you’re imagining.
There are six of us in this house. Six unique, strange, beautiful people who came to each other as full-grown humans, with pasts and futures that don’t necessarily fit together perfectly. But our presents do. We fit together now, perfectly, in that old Bed-Stuy brownstone that holds ten years of previous groups who also came together like puzzle pieces for one year, like we have.
Now, when I say we fit together perfectly, I don’t mean that we never argue, that everything is simple and easy. It’s not. Some things are more difficult than I can even explain. Our house holds confusion, heartbreak, heartfixing, anger, frustration, and doubt. We deal with them together, because we could not deal with them alone. Our house also holds happiness, love, laughter, goofiness, smiles, hugs, and the feeling you get (that has no name) when you are perfectly content to just be in the place where you are in the moment you happen to be there. Our house holds that a lot.
One of us likes to say that it’s like we are in a six-way marriage. Which is absolutely true. We are each other’s emergency contacts. We are sounding boards. Master chefs. Therapists. Career counselors. Love advisors. Life advisors. Safety nets.
Sure, sometimes, I need to close the door to my room and just be alone for a while. But I take great comfort in knowing that there are five other people in the house who will be there for me when I am ready for them to be. It's always weird to be the first person to come home to an empty house - the time I spend alone at home is quiet and peaceful, but it's missing something important - our house never feels better than when all of us are home, even if each is engrossed in his or her own pursuits. It just feels right.
As Jesuit Volunteers, the values that guide us present us with challenges. We struggle with how to live simply. We grapple with social justice issues. We question our spirituality. We work to embrace and understand the community we have entered and the one we are creating. We do not pretend to live in a perfect world. We see its imperfections daily – in our clients, our students, our friends and our neighbors. When the education system has failed them, when the immigration system has failed them, our hearts are broken, over and over. But our beautiful home is where we help each other’s hearts heal.