Ana Forman is from Orinda, CA and attended the University of California, Davis. As a Washington, DC Corps member she is working as a Volunteer Coordinator and HIV Prevention Educator at Metro TeenAIDS which works to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through outreach and education and identify, treat, and improve the lives of those who are already infected.
I am not good at sharing. I have never shared a room, I don’t share my clothes, and most of all I don’t share my feelings.
Seven weeks ago I sat in a circle in the middle of Washington, DC with nine other young, Jewish, social justice soldiers wanting to run as fast as I could back to California. My fear of sharing took over immediately and I became paranoid that my new housemates were compulsive sharers. To my right I saw the person who would borrow MY clothes without asking. To my left was the person who would share MY room. How could I possibly stay sane while sharing a house with nine people? And that was only the first day.
The day after move-in we were thrust into orientation – a week of sharing everything from the last vegetarian sandwich to my personal Jewish history. By day three of AVODAH I wasn’t so sure the year of social justice I was so excited about would be worth all the sharing I would have to endure. On day five we had our first meeting: it would be a time to share our feelings about sharing food. The phrase ‘system overload’ took on new meaning. I couldn’t share anymore. I didn’t want to share my food, I didn’t want to share my space, and I didn’t want to share my feelings about any of it. Communal living…whatever.
After all the sharing I thought work would be a like a breath of fresh air – there would be no food sharing, no feelings sharing, no housemates. I spent my first day at work learning about my responsibilities as Volunteer Coordinator/HIV Prevention Educator at Metro TeenAIDS. As I read through the binder the past Metro TeenAIDS Avodahnik left for me a heavy brick formed in my stomach. It began to sink in that everyday for the next year I would be working to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in a city where the virus runs rampant, and race and wealth seem to propel it. The coming year working at Metro TeenAIDS would certainly be rewarding and fulfilling, but would not be easy.
The weight of the injustice felt heavy on my shoulders and the last thing I wanted to do after trudging home through the humid streets of DC was cook dinner. I stepped into my Washington, DC AVODAH home and smelled the stirfry (kosher stirfry). We had decided to share food and to share the responsibility of cooking which meant that after my long day at work I did not need to worry about fixing myself dinner. We all sat down together and began to share again. This time I was eager to tell my housemates about my day. I wanted to share my experience at work and to hear about theirs. The day had been tough and viscerally I knew that the only way to ease the experience was to talk about it and listen to my housemates’ experiences, because as Avodahniks we feel the same weight of injustice on our shoulders. That evening I understood Barbara Streisand’s famous lyric “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world”. I needed people, specifically my AVODAH people. At dinner I began to see the person to my left as someone who cared deeply about educating immigrants on their rights and the person to my right as an incredible listener who gave amazing advice.
I signed up to live communally which meant that I signed up to share, and also meant that I signed up for support. In my AVODAH home we share our food and our feelings, our household responsibilities and our experiences. It isn’t always easy to share and in a lot of ways it will be a constant challenge for me, but I understand now that through every kind of sharing we do we support each other. Two months ago I never would have believed that I would write a blog, sharing my feelings with all of the world wide web, but AVODAH and my housemates have taught me that sharing has a cathartic power.
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