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What Does Community Really Mean?

A view of the Hudson River from the George Washington Bridge near my community's apartment.

Community. What does this word really mean? For me, the “Community” tenet of Good Shepherd Volunteers was the most difficult to imagine. I had no idea what a concrete structure of community looked like and what exactly would be required from me within the said “community.” Contemplating how I was supposed to form a tight knit community with people I did not select myself was very challenging. All I knew when I began this year was we, as “community members,” were supposed to: 1) meet twice a week to discuss the four tenets of GSV, and 2) live together. After a full ten months of living with my fellow community members, I have realized what a beautiful thing this community life is. Within our home we were committed to each other in a way roommates are not. For example, not even a full week into our year, it was my twenty second birthday. I was nervous about celebrating my birthday in a new city without the tight community I had surrounding me the past four years in college. However, without provocation my new roommates took it upon themselves to celebrate me in a way that was so special and made me feel known when we didn’t really know each other at all. I think that is the beauty of it. We don’t truly know each other in the way people who live for years together do, but we just love, we just accept, and we just listen to who we choose to be in this moment and in this year.

From Left to Right: me and Sarabella; Shanelle and me; me and Sam

I think the most surprising aspect of the community life was the intentionality each of my roommates brought to our conversations, meal times, and weekly get-togethers. I sincerely learned a great amount about how to consider each person’s individual needs when making a decision. It took me outside of my own immediate needs and into the needs of others, a difficult but necessary challenge.

Me and Shamus

Each of my relationships with the New York volunteers have grown and shaped into something completely different and much richer than how they began in August. Only three weeks out, I already miss them tremendously! Even though our dinners were often thrown together, our debates often heated, and our chore chart often foregone, our apartment was a place of refuge; I could always depend upon their friendship and steady support. Looking forward, I can only hope to form a similar community among my friends in the next stage of life.

Written by, Ashton Andrews Washington Heights Community '18-'19


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