Celebrating Community with the Belle H. Bennett House
By Jaime Zito
This year has been really difficult for me. Over the past ten months, I have moved to a new city, made new friends, lost old friends, left a whole lot of love behind and gained a whole lot more. I have learned about social justice movements, a whole other side of history that I never knew, and about what self-care looks like in a world that is constantly demanding more and more of us as true justice seems to be moving further away instead of closer. For the last ten months, I have lived in intentional community at the Belle H. Bennett House, and it has stretched me dramatically and changed me for the better.
In my struggle to adjust to everything, I have attempted to form new relationships beyond the house, and a conversation I have had many times centers on the question of what it means that I live in an “intentional community” and often, we struggle to find a definition of intentional community even within our house. I have a particularly hard time explaining it to other people because I am not great at doing the whole intentional community thing. I might say, “Well, uhm, we talk a lot about our feelings?” or, “We can’t just sweep things under the rug because we need to actually talk about them and resolve issues.” None of that really sums it up, obviously, and I think part of why it is so hard to explain is because intentional community means something different to everyone.
I think it is a lot like marriage. Marriage can mean and look and feel astoundingly different to every couple experiencing it and can even mean different things to the parties within the union. Yet if we define marriage, we can still call it a legal or spiritually joining of two people. Marriage technically has a definition, but even that is up for debate and discussion and this definition still doesn’t even hint at the experience. Intentional community at the BHB House is like being married to 4 people instead of one. We have to be aware of and acknowledge the needs of each other, balance schedules, cook together, take care of each other when we are sick and leave each other alone when we just need a minute, but it is also so much more than that because it is a constantly and continuously unfolding and changing dynamic of relational being.
The BHB House has been such an important part of my life because it has forced me to share my world, something that I don’t like to do. I am a fiercely independent person and I living in my own imaginary landscape that feels impossible to express and communicate no matter how hard a try or what avenues of expression I use. Sharing your world is hard because it puts you out on a limb and exposes the parts of you that aren’t pretty and let’s other people see all of the things that keep you safe and secure when everything is falling apart which can feel incredibly threatening and scary. What I didn’t expect is how much beauty and joy can be added to your world when you share it. The structure doesn’t necessarily transform, but the environment shifts and morphs and takes on characteristics you didn’t know it had. It becomes something new and allows us to achieve great things because, whether we realize it in every moment or not, we are always capturing pieces of each other, sharing strengths and adding new perspectives to each other’s’ worlds. We, quite simply, have no option but to become better when we have each other.
Community isn’t just a place to fall back on when times get hard or to struggle with when disagreements emerge, but it is a place that gives us a space to celebrate collectively. The genuine sharing of joy is another blessing of community and when it comes to celebration, showing up is what makes it intentional. We honor each other in our joy by being present, with our minds, ears, and hearts focused. We may lose this focus over time, move on to other challenges or triumphs, or retreat into our personal sources of joy, but the beauty of our community is that there is always someone to experience and share these initial moments with. One of the hardest things about this fellowship wrapping up is that letting people into your world means having to let them go and take a part of us with them. We often think of leaving as a bad thing, with change and upheaval, but I don’t think it has to be, specifically because we have been intentional through our time as Belle H. Bennett fellow.
A part of being intentional means that we have actually shown up to our lives and truly lived into the least ten months. We were here and don’t need to cram all of that living and experiencing and sharing into the final moments. I think change and transition can be another cause for celebration; the culmination of intentionality, the coming together of all of the tiny joys and moments of people and connectedness. Calling things “endings” is just an excuse for us to falsely mark time and trick our brain into thinking we ever had any control over the structure of our existence. However, when we realize that these beginnings and ends are just made up contraptions so hallmark can sell calendars and cards, then we can use them to our favor and not to our disappointment or as mechanisms of fear. All markers of time are human constructions, and since we have constructed them, we can reclaim them and use them however we wish. I choose to use these markers to celebrate and remember.
In order to celebrate the BHB House, we will be holding a banquet on May 28 from 6 to 8 pm. Dinner will be included and the tickets cost $30 each. Intentional community is hard and the support we have all received throughout this year from our various personal and professional networks has been a blessing. We hope that this banquet will be a chance to celebrate all who have participated in the BHB house, not just the cohort. Whether you have gotten coffee with a fellow to hear about their day, read a blog post written by one of the BHB women, or supported Scarritt Bennett Center financially, you are a part of what it means to live in intentional community, and we hope that you will join us to celebrate the role you have played in the sharing of worlds and the changing of lives.
Jaime Zito is a recent graduate of Denison University, who came to Scarritt Bennett Center because of her deep commitment to embodied spirituality. She is a Belle Harris Bennett Fellow, pursing a year of service and intentional living in order to help her discern what’s next and make the most of her past and future experiences. She is a certified liberal artist who enjoys religious studies, chemistry, and studio art, mainly printmaking and painting. Her passions include coffee, writing, and making sure everyone around her is having fun.