When I think of the things that I take with me after an experience, it always includes the people I am with. I did not have a strong connection to people at my church growing up. Most of the people lived in the other part of town and went to a different school than I did. When I went to college at the University of Dayton, the word “community” was thrown around so many times during orientation that it lost whatever meaning it had for me. However, the more time I spent with the Marianists, the order that ran the university, and the Marianist student communities founded on the same principles, the more that word “community” became connected with people who accepted me, encouraged me to grow, and challenged me to be a better person. In time, I would be a part of a Marianist student community myself and I was able to see the physical space and relationships it takes to grow a community. Ingrained in the Marianist idea of community was service. In college that often-looked like cookouts in my backyard, sharing burgers, and prayer requests with other students.
But I also had a deep desire to jump fully into service. To live out every day the love and acceptance that had been so impactful to me. My time in Amate has shown how community deepens within the walls of our McKinley Park home and overflows into the people I live and work with. Our community has been such a life-giving source. I never dread coming home but enjoy time with people who are eager to share stories from their work, listen to fun music as we make dinner, and spend countless hours around the table laughing or traveling around the city. We make special time each week as a house to watch Survivor and encourage each other to go to Mass at Old St. Pat’s in the West Loop.
But community at Amate does not stop at our door. I have been active in the local neighborhood with a group known as the “Trash People of McKinley Park.” We gather at a different place once a month armed with pickers and trash bags, picking up trash and talking before finishing with a cup of coffee and a meal at a local restaurant. I have met people attending Graduate school at Northwestern, teachers who work at the nearby school, and retirees who play tennis at the park every day, each of them only a few blocks from where I live.
Far from my limited view of it when I was younger, community means sharing your entire self with the people around you. It can be your physical space, your time, your experiences, your thoughts, but it is always done with a spirit of love. I am happy to share how all my communities, both those in Amate and outside of it, call me to understand and love myself and the people I share myself with.