We began our year of service with a week long orientation at Stonehill. During this orientation we learned about the city of Brockton, our new home, our service, and each other. We were able to take some time to learn each others personalities and bond before we were thrown into living together for a year. Last week, the India cohort of the Stonehill Service Corps began their journey with an orientation at Stonehill. Although Agartala, India and Brockton, Massachusetts are sure to provide very different service experiences, a lot of our orientation experience was similar. Living in community, no matter where in the world you are can be very challenging and very rewarding.
Last week we had the members of SSC India over to discuss living in community (and to eat delicious funfetti cupcakes!). It was interesting to take a step back and look at the way our community runs and try to explain to others what makes our group work so well. We tried our best to give advice and to share as much as we could about our first few weeks together in community. We have all been so wrapped up in our placements and living together has become such second nature that it was difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes things run so smoothly.
We told the India group about our chore chart and how we each have a job that we are responsible for within the house (vans, money, cleaning, house fun, social media, etc.). We gave them lots of little tips that I am sure they had heard many times before. I think our only real piece of advice was that they should have a question bag. This is something we started very early on. We took a small gift bag and everyone could write anonymous questions on slips of paper and put them in the bag. The questions could be anything. We had everything from “What is your favorite movie?” to “What is your biggest regret?”. We all agreed that any question was okay to go in the bag. At the beginning of the year, every night after dinner we would pick out questions from the bag and go around and have everyone answer them. We got to know things about each other that wouldn’t necessarily come up in conversation naturally. This really helped us all to bond quickly and although we were just doing it for fun, it really helped us to learn more about each other and therefore live more harmoniously in community.
We are now at the point where we don’t need the question bag anymore. There are two reasons why the question bag no longer exists in our house. The first is that we can’t come up with anything that we don’t already know about each other. The second is that when we do think of something there is no need for anonymity. We are all comfortable enough with each other now that direct questions are not awkward and uncomfortable.
At the end of this week we are going to spend a day at Stonehill for our midyear retreat. It seems crazy that it is already time for this. Talking with the India group brought us back to that first week when we were all just getting to know each other at Stonehill. We remembered that during one of our first community moments together Lauren broke the news to us that Robin Williams (RIP) had passed away. I think back to the first night in O’hara when Lisa and I were being awkward and overly polite about turning off lights and running fans in our room. That all seems so silly now that we are such close friends. The India group, though very different than us, was us five months ago. It was great to be able to talk to them, to see their excitement, to share our ‘wisdom’ with them, and to reflect on where we were such a short time ago.
Good luck SSC India! Looks like you are already having a wonderful time!
P.S. My students still need penpals!