By Angie Knutson
Living in community is very similar to living with your family. Some days you cannot imagine your life without them, and sometimes you wish they would leave you alone. Our tight family circle of five young adults trying to figure out where they are going next in life faces many times of challenges and of great joy in the community house. Many of our weekly habits are steady: we each cook one day a week, we rotate whose turn it is to go grocery shopping, we take turns leading morning and evening prayer, and we have a group meeting Sunday nights to discuss who needs the car when, and who may be coming over to join us for dinner.
What makes our essentially simple community life extraordinary are the moments in-between the second we wake up to the second we go to bed. We break off to our different worksites in the morning and return home in time for dinner in the evening. Sometimes we are all together in the living room playing a game or watching our favorite television shows, and sometimes we break off into our individual rooms for some privacy for a chance to wind down. We laugh, cry, and argue over some of the most trivial parts of living together; yet we never fail to offer each other unyielding support or help solve a problem we may have with our worksites.
I would be lying if I told you that life in community is perfect, and I would also be lying if I told you that it was the easiest living situation in which I was a part. However, I cannot imagine what else I would be doing, and how much I would be missing out on if I had not chosen to live with such amazing individuals.
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off To Work We Go
As many of you know, I work at Nicolet Elementary School, located about one block from the community house. The responsibilities I hold are two-fold. In the mornings I work in a first and second grade combination classroom helping out the teacher during their morning of literacy. I help with everything from fetching books and other supplies from the library, to copying worksheets, to working with a few of the students on an activity.
The afternoon requires most of my energy, and is consequently the most challenging part of my work at the school. I coordinate an after-school program that helps students who struggle with dyslexia. Freshmen and a couple sophomores from St. Norbert College come over and are paired up with a student and work with them one-on-one. The goal is to help improve the students’ reading skills by following a specific step-by-step manual and script each college student uses. Because I am the first person to manage this kind of program, there have been many mistakes I had to learn from and other skills I needed to fine-tune in order to make the program successful and hopefully pass this responsibility onto future Norbertine volunteers and college students.
My worksite is the one place I find the most joy, and constantly experience God’s presence. I know that service work is not always as gratifying as I initially expect, and that the change you are making is not apparent at first glance, but over the past several months, I see where teachers find the most rewarding part of their job. A couple of weeks ago, a student ran right up to me and exclaimed, “Ms. Knutson, I just spelled the word ‘difficult’! That was the word she read on the card, and I just spelled it just like that, like it was nothing!” He was so proud of himself that I couldn’t help mirroring his excitement.
Although some days are rough, especially when the students try my patience, walking into the classroom each morning by such greetings as “Good morning, Ms. Knutson!” or when one second grader told me right when I walked in that I could be Thing 1 and Thing 2 from Dr. Suess because I was skinny like them, it makes it all worth it. It amazes me that even kids who come from poverty and diverse backgrounds all know how to love, play, laugh, and find happiness that most adults who have everything do not always appreciate or know what it is to simply live every moment of every day as it is.