Friday, September 18, 2015

It Takes a Village

For five of our almost ten years of marriage, Daniel and I have had at least one roommate. During our second year of marriage, we invited my youngest sister into our recently purchased campus house for her first year of college. Soon after, we opened our other spare bedroom to a college friend. When both girls moved out a year later, we had a series of short-term roommates, including a foreign exchange student from Spain and a brother of a close college friend.

We lived in our own home throughout our years in Thailand, although it was not uncommon to share a meal or an entire day with our neighbors. Once we returned to the States, Daniel's parents graciously opened their homes for us during our eight months of transitioning back to life in the U.S. and finding a house of our own. Then shortly after moving into that house, my brother moved into our basement bedroom for his freshman year of college, and just a few months later, my youngest sister moved into our last spare bedroom during a six-month gap between jobs. At the time, our son was just a few months old, and soon I would find out I was expecting his baby sister. 

When the kids were just 1 and 2, we invited Daniel's youngest sister and her husband to live with us. They were both starting new careers, hoping to save for a house of their own - plus our basement bedroom had been vacant for almost a year. They ended up living with us for almost nine months, moving to their country home shortly after the kids turned 2 and 3. They were our last roommates to-date.

I will be the first to admit that every roommate situation had its plusses and minuses, but by far, the good out-weighed the bad. Even when we were wrestling through our first years of marriage, or figuring out how to care for a newborn and a not-yet one-year-old, or grieving over a tragic loss, having roommates was always a positive, deeply rewarding experience. 
Perhaps it is because living life together has always been my heartbeat. 
Perhaps it is because our hearts and minds, even our biology, is hard-wired for regular human contact. 
Perhaps it is because the moment-to-moment sharing of life helps us savor each second that much more.  
Perhaps it is because we are better together, because it takes a village

I recently stumbled across an article called, I Miss the Village, and for the first time realized that I was not alone in my longing for community living. That for all the years of crazy stares when I have told people about our many roommates, THIS. For all the years of extending yet another spare bedroom, rearranging our own living arrangements to accommodate more guests, THIS. For all the years of bemoaning garage door openers, and planned dinner dates once a month and so much time and distance between interactions, THIS. For all the years of sitting across from a friend or acquaintance, trying to articulate what community means to me, trying to put into words the life I have always longed for, THIS.

Because what would happen if, instead of carrying the burdensome weight of large mortgages and two car payments and tons of cleaning, we divided that weight up a bit? What would happen if, instead of trying to be chef and chauffeur, tutor and therapist, mama and money-maker, we admitted our limitations and leaned on the strengths of others? What would happen if, instead of flicking a tiny gray rectangle giving us quick and private access in and out of our own lives, we - with wisdom and discernment - opened our doors, and our hearts?
Perhaps we would find our village. 
We would find each other. 
We would find the joy of life, together

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  1. We would probably all spend much less time obsessing about about sleep, wine, and anxiety/depression meds! I think about the village - sounds awesome and slightly scary to give up our independence.

    1. Agreed. There are definitely things that would have to be worked out, but for me, I feel the pros would far outweigh the cons. And I don't think it's really a matter of "giving up our independence" nor do I think that's a great idea. I think we keep reasonable boundaries and individual identity, but we do a lot more leaning into each other, and daily sharing of duties.

  2. My family has been living in community for over 30 years. That includes multi-generations within the family and non-related housemates. It's a rich, messy, and full way of living out our time here on earth. I love it sometimes and intensely dislike it at others... but wouldn't trade my experiences for anything! Hugs, Wendy Munsell

    1. Thanks for sharing, Wendy! I agree it is a multi-layered experience, and by no means 100% positive. But my gut tells me it is what we were meant for, a close-knit, side-by-side, moment-by-moment way of living.

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