Curiosity in Community: An End-of-Term Reflection, by Leah

In the beginning, God created…

He created the heavens and earth, sun, moon, and stars. He painted sunsets, carved out canyons, and filled oceans. In this artistry and grandeur of creation, God delighted to make each person at 75 Blake Street unique. Each student, staff and resident have their own set of talents, passions, and perspectives. Some people here are ignited by making music right before the house’s quiet hour, others are inspired by nature, art, good conversation, or doing dishes. We are an eclectic mix of puzzle pieces that seem to fit together by divine hands.

As a resident and intern of Act Five, I have grown more and more to appreciate God’s creativity in gathering everyone at Blake Street together.

One way God’s creativity is put on display is at Jazz Night. This is a bi-weekly meeting where the residents of the house discuss topics beyond our everyday experiences. I remember biking home after Jazz Night one evening in October with tears in my eyes because my vision of God had expanded. With each story shared around the table, God seemed to grow larger. As He grew larger, my hunger for Him became larger. My wonder of Him became larger.

The wonder of God has grown in each one of us at Blake Street through recognizing the beauty and diversity in the stories of others. To date, the students have participated in storytelling nights, a canoe trip, Indigenous learning, an Enneagram retreat, and a trip to Lamppost Farm in Ohio. Some of these highlights were included in the student end-of-term stories. All these events were formative.

As well as these larger adventures, the ordinary day-to-day rhythms we engage in at Act Five have also led many students to find belonging in diversity. The steady practices of exploring Hamilton, showing up for volunteer opportunities, eating meals together, and having late-night conversations are part of our formation in Christ. In the book, The Gift of Being Yourself, David Benner writes, “[A]s we become more and more like Christ we become more uniquely our own true self” (p. 17). The rhythms of Act Five play a part in shaping us more into the image of Christ. For many of us, they have made us more ourselves. In her end-of-term story, one of our students, Jana, noted,

“Now, my hands are clean. My face is clean… I am clean. I am new here. This is my home. In trying to find, I have been found.”

This is the beauty of the story we live in: God has not created us with the same passions. He has not given us the same gifts. He has not written the same story for each of us. God has washed clean; He has formed and found. In Christ, we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)— more fully alive and uniquely ourselves.

Because we are not saved to be the same, living in community is complicated and messy. At Act Five, we practice curiosity to enter this messiness with empathy and wonder.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to see curiosity grow in many of our residents, students and me. Curiosity is a key tool in revealing the humanity of people experiencing poverty in Hamilton. At Deedz, curiosity comes in the form of a warm cup of cocoa and conversation with a stranger. In this way, residents and students have a chance to hear the stories behind poverty. At Spaghetti Wednesday, curiosity is reciprocated over steaming noodles on the backyard picnic tables. During our resident meetings, curiosity means sharing stories and listening well.

Curiosity in community is hard. We can’t do it on our own. It is uncomfortable. It requires grace, compassion, and empathy. One student, Katie, likened clay soil to her journey with curiosity this year, saying,

“[W]hen there is a long drought, clay becomes a challenge. The lack of rain cements the soil which makes it difficult for plant roots to grow and thrive, resulting in lower yields for the crop… See, I am like the Plant growing in the clay. There is a drought, and my roots can’t expand through the stubborn and hard soil. But… God can rain down on this soil, and I can grow my roots and expand.”

The rain God sent this semester was an encounter with diversity. The clay of our hearts has been softened by the stories of others (from those told in Manitoulin to the students’ bravery in sharing their own). Encountering diversity requires us to be creative, formed, and curious, locating beauty in the differences of others. 

And this is just the start. We are less than 4 months in as this year’s expression of the Act Five community. January comes with most of this home plus others heading to Louisiana or El Salvador. Two wilderness trips remain, all of the students’ placements, and so much more.

With open hands, we continue. Thanks for joining us as you do.

– Leah Beldman

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