My name is Ahna, and I live in one of the D. C. houses: Junia. It is located in the Petworth neighborhood and it is called home by three Lutheran Volunteers and three Loretto Volunteers. For those of you who don’t know, the Loretto Volunteer Corps is an Catholic volunteer organization. They are a group of spunky feminists who focus on spirituality, sustainability, and social justice. This is the first year where the two programs have come together to share a house, and I feel remarkably lucky to be a part of it. There is no way I can capture everything that has happened for us in the first month here, but I can introduce my housemates, tell you about a few experiences we’ve had, and share how this first month has impacted me.
I met Kristina and Natalie in Chicago at the LVC orientation, and we arrived in D.C. a full day before our Loretto counterparts. The night the Loretto volunteers were set to arrive, we sat waiting in the living room fidgeting and making small talk. When we heard a key in the back door, we jolted up and hurried to the narrow kitchen entrance. There we met Leora, Melissa F, and Melissa C. We helped them carry in their bags and then sat around the dining room table and introduced ourselves. We shared the fickle facts society deems important: our home states, our majors, and our placements. Then we had the room assignment conversation. We ranked the rooms and disclosed our concerns and sleeping habits. To close the conversation, we decided to revisit the arrangements in a few months.
The next day, we went on a scavenger hunt in the city. It was humid, hot day. We rode buses and walked around the city checking off the items on the list and taking pictures for proof. As lunch rolled around, we bought a sleeve of bagels from the CVS and ate together on the grass in the park. Part of the scavenger hunt asked us to find an event related to social justice and put it on our house calendar. We chose an event coming up at Busboys and Poets, a panel on friendship and social activism. When we went to the panel a few days later, we were an hour early. While we waited, some of us sat in the window well and read books. Some of us started conversations with strangers. Listening to the panel spurred a valuable conversation about the kind of community and friendships we wanted to create together.
After our first week of work, we were all invited to the Loretto Welcome Cookout. I’m a bit ashamed to admit this now, but I was hesitant about attending. What if it was boring, awkward, or well… too Catholic? Reluctantly, I piled into Melissa F’s car with the rest of the housemates. Within minutes of arriving, I knew my concerns were misguided. The Loretto sisters, and the friends of Loretto were remarkable. They talked to us about the organizations they started in DC, the work they’d done abroad, and they listened. They asked about our placements, our lives, and our dreams. As we drove home, we talked about how they inspired us. Leora commented on how comfortable we all were together. It was a simple observation, but one that has stuck with me. I cannot pinpoint how it happened, or when it happened, but somehow we had become a community.
Perhaps it was the events we attended, the meals we shared, or our common frustration with public transportation. Regardless, the feeling of community has only strengthened since. I come home from work every day knowing there will be a meal and people who genuinely care about me. I come home and feel like I am home.