Editor’s note: Former DC Service Corps volunteer Chase Medelberg reflects on the women got to know during his last year living in intentional community at Casa San Salvador.
My year at FMS was full of surprises–none bigger than living in a volunteer community with so many women. Before I came to DC, I sort of knew that I would be living with mainly women; however, I had no idea that it would actually be 12 women. To say I was nervous would be an understatement. Although I was used to being around women having grown up mainly around my two sisters and my mom–I had also had my friends to hang out with. But in DC that was not the case. Looking back on the year now, I can say that living in a female-dominated house was one of the biggest blessings of my year of service. I learned a lot from the women around me, and I would like to share a few of my observations and highlights of the year.
Somehow I got roped into watching The Bachelor on Tuesday nights with the community.
It is quite possibly the worst show of all time.
First, I would just like to state that by episode 2, I correctly guessed the final 4, final 3, and the season winner, so I am probably an expert on bachelor prediction. But, in all honesty, the show was one of the most bizarre things I have ever witnessed: in what world would 30 women be okay sharing one man in hopes of finding love? However, I loved that The Bachelor brought us together as a community, and it certainly sparked some hilarious conversations. #TeamCorrine
Before my year of service started I only knew of a few things that I considered a pet peeve. I can say after my year that this is definitely one. There would be conversations where not a single word would be spoken. I do not know if the ladies in the Casa had some sort of telepathic communication signal, but I never understood what was going on. I think they spoke through hugs. I remember when I first moved into the Casa, everyone would get home from work, and the long and many hugs would begin. I like hugs, but I am a firm believer in the 3-second rule. And then following that greeting, we can continue to communicate, verbally.
The community loved popcorn. LOVED it. When returned missioner and re-entry facilitator Beth Riehle visited the community in January, it might have been the biggest event of the year, what with all the popcorn she brought. When we watched shows, played games, sat on the porch, talked in the Romero room, and any other activity, there was one thing that was always present—popcorn. And not just any popcorn. Heaven forbid you went to Aldi and bought the bags of popcorn instead of the popcorn kernels…
Jokes aside, living with the women in the Casa community has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. I was able to share extraordinary moments with these women: Madonna was accepted into medical school, Ali became engaged, and Maeve bought me Chipotle.
They also taught me many things over the year. For example, Chiara and Cassie’s sense of stewardship for our planet taught me to care more about the environment and about recycling. Maggie taught me what it looks like to be someone who loves all of God’s creations, especially animals. Amanda reminded me that I own a lot of Baylor shirts. Cindy, through her example, redefined what service and mission work looked like to me. Ali provided me company early in the mornings when we were the only community members awake; every day, we would greet each other with our ritualistic head nod and silence. Kathleen saved my dinners more times than I can count. And Madonna’s cooking changed my life. I don’t cry a lot, but when I ate Madonna’s homemade hot sauce, I was literally crying tears of joy– and possibly pain.
I could go on for days telling you why each lady I lived with was awesome and how they impacted me. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure how the year would turn out for me with my lack of bro time, but the ladies made up for it in spades. I have never felt more supported than during my year at FMS. The ladies I lived with challenged and inspired me to be better, and I would like to think they helped me become a better person too. If you asked them whether that was true, I would like to think that they–or at least, most of them–would agree.
I remember wishing so badly there was another guy I would be spending the year with, but now I cannot imagine my year any other way than being surrounded by supportive, amazing, and sometimes annoying women–nor would I want to change a thing.
Reflection question: When have you grown from opening yourself to a new community?