We recently had the privilege to share a splendid Mexican Fiesta (made mostly by Paula and Allison-though the rest of us chipped in as necessary) with Noel Schwartz, the founder of the Peacemakers program for elementary students at Caritas Village. Even though we’ve spent many afternoons working with Noel and sharing in her love for the kids of the neighborhood, we were all excited to have this opportunity to share a meal and conversation and fellowship together. Noel has been active with the Rivendell Intentional Community for a number of years and shared many of her experiences living and working in community, particularly in Memphis. Highlights of the conversation include peacemakers and sharing community with them (a whole other blog post because I could on about those kids for hours-trust me), all the different ways intentional communities can exist, the sheer number of communities in Memphis as well as the role of faith in a community. We also learned about some other active communities in Memphis that we’re excited to work with and learn from soon. From our time with Noel, I took away two main things (in addition to lots of laughter, some delicious Irish Oat Cakes and homemade Jam, as well as getting some background about Rhodes-she went to school here too!)
First, as we discussed Noel’s experiences I became very aware that though there are plenty of named and organized communities in the area (and around the world for that matter) community is so much more than that. We talked about communities that share funds, communities that share living space, communities of single families and on and on. From that, I came to the conclusion that community is in fact, whatever you make it—yes most intentional communities share many of the same goals and/or value the same aspects of living but those vary as much as the communities themselves. The only necessary ingredient seems to be a desire for something greater than the individuals themselves; whether that be other people, the environment, service, the list goes on and on. And though I don’t normally consider myself a cynic, I found myself greatly pleased with this reminder that not all people are as a individualistic as it so often appears. Now, I can’t say something like that without clarifying that I, by no means, claim to be a selfless individual and certainly fall victim to that self-preservation mentality often, particularly at school. However, I do think that that is something living in community has forced me to recognize and taught me to put into practice. I’m not good at it…yet….but like the rest of this whole adventure; it’s a work in progress.
Second, I was also reminded in this meal about the significance sharing meals has meant to the Ruka. Not the food aspect per say (though I must say, I do live with some ballin’ chefs) but all the things that go into meals. Everything from selecting the menu to the grocery shopping, to preparing the meal and cleaning up afterwards, are all community events in and of themselves. Sharing at the table has easily created some the best moments all semester including serious conversations, self reflection, the occasional debate and tons of laughter. Even the nights when it’s been carry out pizza and we sit on the floor around a box, we do it together, which means we grow together. Not to mention meals with professors and community members have been great experiences every time. Our time with Noel only solidified that further.