Connecting the Dots, Finding Community

Connecting the Dots, Finding Community April 25, 2012

I was recently in Austin, Texas to give a lecture at Austin Presbyterian Seminary. While there, I had the chance to share dinner with folks from about a dozen different communities around the city. College students shared about how they’re trying to find a rhythm of life in a common house, while a middle-aged woman talked about how her community has negotiated time commitments as kids have grown up and become adults. These folks were brought together by a great group called ConneXion House. They’ve made it their mission to connect the dots between new monastic and missional community experiments in Texas. The publish a great little magazine called The Common Voice, where communities share stories and pictures of the good news they’ve heard and seen.

One great story from this gathering of communities came from Johanna Hosking Pulido, who’s lived in a three household community in an apartment complex for several years with her husband, Josh, and daughter, Inés Piia, in the St. John neighborhood of Austin. I’m glad to share her testimony here.

By Johanna Hosking Pulido

Community makes sense to me.  I grew up in a house with my parents, my grandparents, and my sister.  I lived within five blocks of three aunts and 11 cousins. I grew up sharing bedrooms and bathrooms, gathering with friends in TV-less living rooms, and reciting poetry during conversations around the dinner table.  I do not know how “normal” my experience of community was–whether it was part of my Mexican culture or just a peculiarity of my family. Whatever the case, community makes sense to me.

When I came to Austin, leaving behind my place and my people, I found it hard to deal with the solitude and isolation. At first I thought it was only me.  But as I observed and listened to other voices, I understood that there were many people experiencing the same feelings.  And they were not all foreigners.

Lula was one of the first people that I met that knows what I mean when I say, “community makes sense to me.”  Lula is from Costa Rica. We work at the same place. In no time, our commiserating became friendship. Before long, our friendship turned into conversations about looking for a way to live closer to each other. At the same time another good friend, who is originally from Mexico, was moving to Austin to start a new job. We were all in the search for a place to live and we were all lacking “support people” in our lives. It seemed like the time to be in motion, to make intentional decisions to change our situation.

We asked all those questions: What could we do to live together? How much privacy were we willing to give up? What were we risking?

We were all in different moments in our lives. Lula was a single mom with two preschool kids. Ana was a single, young professional.  And I was newly married.

Renting a house together and moving there seemed pretty scary. Yet we were all in need of a common place, looking for something different, and unsatisfied in our isolated lives. Our compromise was to look for an apartment complex within our budget into which we could all move. We found one on the east side of Austin.

It has been a couple of years since we made that conscious decision and we are still trying to figure out things as we go. Our community does not have a name yet. And I think we are all surprised at how hard it can be to coincide in apartments. But we do have meals together, we try to go to Church together, and we definitely share the good days and the bad days in our lives. We are not very intentional sometimes, but others times we are all we have.

I think maybe the only thing our unnamed community has to share with others who are contemplating life together is that there are always ways to find a place where you belong. In our case it has been a small step into an “intentional neighborhood” at an apartment complex. But really, even when you are away from the place where you belong, it is like you start belonging because of others. I never expect to recreate my home here. But at least I have started belonging because of my friends in our unnamed community.

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