Seated around a hand-me-down kitchen table as a senior in college many years ago, I knew as soon as I saw my placement that it would be perfect for me. Working in all of these roles within a multicultural Catholic community was exactly what I wanted to do. What I didn't know at the time was everything else I would gain from a year in the JVC Portland community: Lifelong friendships, a love of the sea in all seasons, and a broader perspective as a result of living intentionally with five other volunteers.
My community, while not without its challenges, was fortunate enough to really enjoy each other's company whether we were at home or out gallivanting around Portland. We were and are a beautiful and unique bunch-- religious and nonreligious, white and POC, cat lovers and cat haters, gay and straight, night owls and early birds. We still keep in touch and support each other through life events. These deep relationships were fostered because we shared meals, time, and prayer together.
During the work day, I learned so much from my colleagues and students and grew as an educator. But when I came home, my world expanded beyond the classroom. Through dinnertime conversation, I listened to my roommates share stories about their experiences serving alongside people struggling with mental illness, HIV, homelessness, and unemployment. I also learned about the services provided by Catholic Charities, including the operation of a thrift store. We occasionally had opportunities to serve at each other's placements. For example, I attended an all night dance marathon event for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and sometimes helped serve food alongside two community members who worked at the local food pantry. My perspective broadened even further whenever we visited the Boston community and listened to them share about their experience as volunteers.
This was the true value for me of JVC; living, praying, serving, laughing, dancing, crying, loving... together. This can happen in every JVC community, but we had the great blessing of doing it all in one of the most charming cities in the country, in a state nicknamed "Vacationland." I'm so happy to hear that more JV's will have that opportunity and I will be keeping them all in my prayers!