I was taught at a young age to try to find rooms in which I was the dumbest person there. It was not an invitation to be lazy or to not take education seriously. Quite the opposite: I was told that if I surrounded myself with people smarter than I, then it was an opportunity to learn from the best. In theory I had taken this idea to heart, but in practice I had never experienced it.

During my educational career I was able to work with and learn from truly brilliant people, but I always felt that there was a good portion of my peers that were on the same level as me. In preparation for mission training I knew that I was a little behind in my Catholic education, evident from the secondary reading list FMS gave me, but I figured others would be in the same boat as me.

When I finally arrived in Washington, DC and started to get to know the people that I would be living and studying with for the next three months I found out I was way off in my assessment.

On one of the first nights I sat around the dinner table with a group of roommates getting to know each other better and found out that all three of them had just finished degrees in theology. It didn’t end there: Everyone that I met had lived in religious housing in college, spent summers on mission trips, or at the very least had been an altar server every Sunday growing up. I grew up as a member of the Catholic Church, but never spent much time studying the teaching of the church in a formal way.

When I realized that I was out my league I was absolutely terrified, but the more that I thought about it I saw it for the opportunity that it really is. Knowing and accepting that everyone else in a situation is much smarter than you are is a liberating feeling. I don’t feel any pressure to pretend that I know things that I don’t know, and I feel free to ask questions about things that I don’t understand.

For example, each of our morning prayer sessions use a different method of prayer. Sometimes they are forms of prayer that I have never experienced, like Eucharistic adoration. I had to have this explained to me because I wasn’t sure what I should be doing during that time in front of Christ present in the exposed consecrated host. My community members were happy to share with me, and I then felt comfortable when the time came to go to adoration.

This experience has shown me how a community can come together when someone is in need. For me living in community is about both giving and receiving in a way that makes everyone’s lives more complete. I hope that in the future when someone else needs help they feel comfortable to ask because of the way that others treated me.