With a commitment of one year to an intentional community, I could never expect the intimacy seven women could build. We were brought together from across the country with distinct purposes but our common thread was our commitment to one another.
We pushed that commitment when we collectively decided to participate in the Hike to DisO. The hike spanned 30 (and for some almost 40) miles over a 3 day period. Our travel route brought us along the Appalachian trail to DisOrientation, which is the closing retreat of JVC.
With our medium sized tent not intended to sleep seven women, some hiking books, and little to no training–we were under prepared. Five of us decided we were going to take the optionally longer route. This involved a 20-mile hike on our first day.
The first day, and if I’m being honest all three days really tested us. We incorrectly envisioned a paved, flat, walk through the mountains.When what we actually encountered is many, many slopes scattered with rocks that slowly wore away the skin on our feet. At various checkpoints, JVC staff had placed food. Moreover, our group of women had packed snacks in our backpack. I have never scarfed down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches faster than my days on the hike.
There were more times I wanted to stop and give up than I can count. A distinct moment is the climb of a 45-degree incline; I was almost on my hands and knees dragging myself up to the top. My housemate, Ali, was in front of me. I could tell she was hurting. Her hiking books were destroying her feet and she had little strength left in her. I felt like reaching out and just saying to her, “let’s just call it, let’s call it a day.” However, I soon heard encouraging voices of my other housemates and fellow hikers at the top of the hill. Ali and I pushed through to the top and were met with a beautiful view of our friends and the path we had just traversed.
The hike was a challenge and gave a beating to my already unfriendly knees. For this reason, I’ll never forget what it felt like to complete the hike with my community members and all my fellow JVs. At the end, we took a group photo together. I looked around at all the sweaty, dirty, and smiling faces and understood what an incredible and dedicated community this was. We do not have many distinct moments in our lives where you can look back and say, “we did it, we did that together.”
It has been seven years since we finished our hike and those seven women are still very much an intentional and beautiful part of my life.
Hannah served as a Jesuit Volunteer in Harlem, New York City in 2009. She holds a BA in English and Theology from Boston College and a Masters in Public Administration from George Washington University. She currently lives and works in New York City.
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