by Nora Margaret Anderson
As the news of the Ice Bucket Challenge continues to spread across nearly every form of social media this week, for the last two weeks I’ve gone through an immersion of my own.
On Sunday, August 3, I moved into a small, three-bedroom house in the Columbus, Ohio neighborhood of Franklinton. Although it was a five-minute drive from my parents’ house where I had crashed since graduation, it was a giant step socioeconomically. The median income in Franklinton is about $14,000, whereas one semester at my private liberal-arts college is about $45,000—not including textbooks or lab fees. Brand-new apartments and High street suddenly became houses stuck with orange “VACANT” signs and the cracked sidewalks of Broad street.
But it wasn’t just a desire to move out of my parents’ for a year while I prepare for law school that led me to the west side. My university was constantly stressing a doctrine of “learn the theory, then put it into practice,” and I’d had enough of academia. I wanted to put everything I’d learned about social and economic inequality to use. So I made the choice to join an intentional community, Confluence Year, and dedicate my time and my knowledge to a neighborhood that had little of either.
My entire first week was a barrage of meet-and-greets, and I say that as an extrovert. Usually, I gain my energy from talking, working, and interacting with others, but at the end of the day, even I was exhausted. Not only was I (and my two new housemates) meeting residents of the neighborhood, but also learning the geography and institutions that work to improve the quality of life in Franklinton. From Gladden Community House, which has been serving for more than a century; to the Franklinton Development Association, which built the first house in the neighborhood since the 1950s, we never really stopped moving. It was, as the director said frequently, “like trying to drink from an open fire hydrant”.
The second week was slightly more spiritual in nature. Confluence Year operates under the purview of the Episcopal Service Corps and includes spiritual formation as part of its holistic approach to support its participants. My housemates, with the help of our director, took the better part of two days to develop a Rule of Life by which we will live for the coming year. It wasn’t exactly one of those retreats in which everyone bares their soul and ends up crying for one reason or another, but I came away with a much deeper understanding of the backgrounds and motivations of the people I’ll be living with for the next year. It’s amazing to think that just a few short weeks ago, I was living with complete strangers, but we’ve quickly become friends—and learned to live fairly well together despite different backgrounds and opinions.
I’m not entirely sure where the year will go—and I’m looking forward to the twists and turns—but if my first two weeks were any indication, this might be the best year of my life so far.