800 Flashcards or What I Learned in Life Together

The other day I was having dinner with a friend who is just about to finish her first year of law school.  We had been seated for all of two minutes when she pulled out a stack of what must have been eight hundred flash cards and frantically asked,

“Will you quiz me on everything I’ve learned this year?”

I took a moment of silence and sarcastically replied, “you’re sure this is everything?”

Jamie widened her eyes and continued, “Meg, I’m serious, if it’s not in here it’s not important.”

While I planned on catching up and having a relaxing dinner, I helped Jamie—she politely reminded me that she had helped me through many academic crises while we were roommates in college.   When I got home, I couldn’t help but think about the hybrid dinner/study session.  Jamie’s anxiety and stress were tangible, it was the concept of trying to recall everything learned in a year with the purpose to regurgitate then forget, that struck me.

What has this year with Life Together and St. Stephen’s in the South End taught me?  What have I learned about intentional living and community organizing?  What have I discovered about being an intern and recent college graduate?  What have I learned about being a Christian?  I don’t think I could even begin to articulately convey these findings in writing.

I’ve learned that living with strangers and growing to care deeply about them is bittersweet.  I’ve begun to learn that there is a time to speak up and out, but we always need more time listen.  I’ve learned that working with teenagers around environmental injustice and youth jobs is two parts joyful, 1 part nerve wracking and 1 part absolutely maddening.

When my lap top crashed, I learned that everyone who works at the Apple Genius Bar is extensively trained in pastoral care.  When I started to examine MCAS scores in BPS turn around schools, I learned that equal access to excellent public education is not a reality.  In these same moments I learned that I believe an excellent public education is a basic human right.

When I was charged to plan a 200 person service day, with-out a budget, I learned that she who asks shall receive.  When my decision to take a “social justice internship” was critiqued by family friends with glamorous jobs, I learned that a thick skin will only deflect so much.  In darker moments when I wondered why I decided to join Life Together and stay on at St. Stephen’s another year, I ultimately learned to have faith.

 While my learning may not be as tangible as some of my law school friends and I can’t rattle off the dissenting opinions of the Plessy V Ferguson 1896 case, like Jamie can, I’ve discovered that the lessons from this year will never be discarded with the proverbial flash cards they were written on.

By Meg McDermott, 2011-2012 Micah Fellow at: St. Stephen's Boston