In my 7 years in Cork, I’ve lived with 21 other people in a shared 4 bedroom house. This weekend, they were all invited (plus partners/spouses) to a place on Beara Peninsula in West Cork, for a reunion. Albeit the 10 who could make it were from the latter half of that time period, and largely (apart from one in Spain) all still lived in Cork.
Travelling with people you’ve lived with technically shouldn’t be hard – you’re used to each other sharing life in close proximity, right?
But there’s still something different about travelling together. There’s an intensity of expression, between everyone. There’s unexpected circumstances that need to be worked-out in short time period, that come as fresh challenges, even to those who’ve lived for a long time together. And there’s equally joys that come from fresh expressions of love shown within community, in ways that perhaps aren’t seen or thought of, in the ordinary rhythms of home life.
And it reminded me of the great blessing of diversity, and being made to honour others and their ways of thinking and doing things, as we travelled together, even when some of those things irk me.
Apart from the rising cost of rental property in Ireland during the post-recession housing crisis, this is precisely the main reason I urge myself to keep living in a shared property, even if it is hassle to live with others at times.
I’m reminded that my of life, is not the only way. From small ways to bigger ones. Here are just a few of the kinds of things I’ve found overlapping with travel:
- How do I do the dishes or how often? There are many ways of thinking.
- What matters more? Cleanliness or hospitality?
- What are expectations for how much time and energy is spent on communicating with each other?
- What do people value spending money on? How much is there to spend?
- What personalities do people have? Extroverts? Introverts?
- What hobbies do people enjoy individually or together?
- What time of year or season of life is someone in at the moment? Does this mean they’re looking for a slower or more busy pace as you travel?
Given some of these things are quite deeply rooted in our lifestyles, it can be frustrating for others who see patterns in their friends’ lives as unchangeable. “Oh that’s just Peter – he won’t ever change”.
But it need not necessarily be the case for Christians. There is very little in that list which could not change under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the kindness of the Father and the Lordship of Christ.
- I can see other ways of doing the dishes that please my housemates – its a tiny issue, in perspective, even if its a daily one!
- I can seek to be cleanly and hospitable according to the measure the Bible places on things, but also whilst seeking to love my neighbour (travel buddy/housemate) and God.
- I can seek to be generous, no matter how much God has given me to look after. And I can have low expectations of others who have been given less.
- I could plan in time to suit my more extroverted or introverted friends, and remember that may mean forfeiting other things.
- I can ask how someone is feeling and what expectations they have, as we set off together.
And so each day, the small differences that so easily could be perceived as larger ones, if we let them, can be things that we can thank God for, as we learn to repent of our self-centred way of seeing the world through our own lenses, and instead look outwards to learn from others and seek to live inter-dependent lives amongst each other.
It’s one of the reasons the answer to the housing crisis (caused in some way by the greed of wanting quick fixes to the recession, and so lowering corporation taxes and creating lots of jobs in the big cities, and nothing elsewhere) cannot be to just build self-contained studio apartments for students or others. The loneliness and exacerbated problems following it, will take its toll on society eventually in a plethora of ways. The richness (and frustrations) of life in shared community is a great blessing to a society that is already polarising itself.
I’m well aware there’s horror stories that could be told about sharing housing, and everyone has their own collection! Not to mention the ridiculous scenarios in Dublin of 3 people sharing a tiny single room, or of renting shared bed-space in a house with someone (unconnected to you).
But all in all the principle is one I’ll still stand on – being forced to see through other lenses is a blessing. For those wanting concrete data behind my intuitionism and speculation from experience, I’ll need to go off and do some research. But for the most who’ve lived with others, I’m sure you’ll agree? Let me know – I’d love to hear your thoughts!
(All photos Copyright of Dan Price)