What better time to write our first Ruka reflections of the year than overThanksgiving Break? To get you in the spirit of this post, take a gander at our Ruka-copia (pictured left), the counter of plenty.
This week, I am home in Saint Simons Island, Georgiato spend the holiday with my family. Being away from our Ruka community for a few days gives me the space and time to reflect in ways that aren’t always possible when you live with four other people. As I have learned in our three months together, intentional community is not something you can turn on and off. It’s a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week, I-still-haven’t-finished-my-homework-and-we’re-roasting-beets-at-midnight crazy, wonderful, all-consuming kind of thing. As someone who is a bit of a control freak (admitting it is the first step, right?) and who values alone time to recharge, this way of life brings challenges along with its many rewards.
Community asks you to give your time and energy. As college students, we’re often running low on these valuable resources. I might come home from campus after a marathon day of workclassmeetingsclasshomework, ready to shed my backpack and FaceTime my girlfriend, only to walk in the house and find that someone has a dilemma they want to problem-solve together, or that the compost bin is full and it’s my turn to take it out, or that someone is roasting veggies in the kitchen and wants some company. Choosing to be present in these seemingly-insignificant moments fosters a special kind of intimacy that I have grown to value in our time together. This is part what intentional community means to me.
Learning to communicate with one another has also been part of the challenge and the reward. Near the beginning of the semester, Beverly from Career Services did a session with us on Gallup’s StrengthsQuest to identify our individual top five strengths. Mine are Input, Intellection, Learner, Context and Futuristic. (Basically, this is a fancy way of saying that my brain is humming 24/7 because I take in and analyze EVERYTHING. Phew. Tired just thinking about that.) Beverly helped us learn how we can use our strengths to work together and how we can work through conflicts when they arise. These skills help us to name our individual needs directly, honestly and respectfully. **For those of you outside of my Ruka family, pause here for a moment and think about just how difficult and counterintuitive speaking your truth actually is. It takes WORK.** Whether it’s figuring out how to spend our weekly farmer’s market stipend or debating the merits of setting the heat at 60 degrees versus 63, it all comes down to communication.
Some of the happiest moments of our year together have been our community dinners with Rhodes professors and members of the Memphis community. They shared stories and advice about marriage and parenting (saving that for 10+ years down the road, don’t worry Mom), book recommendations, embarrassing moments, gardening and cooking tips, and ways to love and grow together as five community members and friends. As someone who used to eat cheese and crackers while standing at the kitchen counter for dinner, I have come to appreciate the magic that happens when you get 5+ people around a table for a meal. I look forward to more opportunities to open our home to others as the year goes on.
To end, here are a few happy photos of me and my Ruka ladies.