#LentWithESC – Day 22

Power-Sharing, or the Story of a Control Freak in Community

Written by Erica Kadel

The Julian Year alum and ESC national staff member

In August 2013, mere months after graduating from Fordham University, I moved into a house with six perfect strangers in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the far north side of Chicago to begin serving with the Julian Year.

In the first weeks, I admit that I came off pretty intense. I made sure to let my new community know that I was controlling and forceful and loud and that, given the choice, I always take charge. But, to give myself some credit, I also told them that I already was beginning to feel nuggets of appreciation and loyalty beginning to grow, and that, given time, I knew I would deeply and fiercely love them.

I had done some serious soul searching in the months and years before that moment, and I felt like I knew what my strengths and weaknesses were (many of my core personality traits really fit into both categories). I saw this move to Chicago for what it could be: a chance for me to create a “new” me with some of my rougher edges sanded down, or at least to have them pointed in the right direction. Seizing the moment with my new community, I told them that they each had full authority to tell me to get over myself when they spotted my authoritarian characteristics negatively affecting any of them or the household.

We all struggled to create a unique, holistic, authentic space in our home for our community to flourish. For each of us, that meant giving things that were important to us, as well as asking for things that we needed. Both of those actions are immensely brave. As I saw the courage of others to take and give as the community and its members needed, I became more courageous, too. Most people needed space for themselves, but I was on the other end of the spectrum, and what I really needed were boundaries. Thankfully, my community took on that challenge.. I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

This past Sunday’s collect begins, “Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves…” As a strong, independent, 21st century woman, this powerful statement of powerlessness would have made me immensely uncomfortable before living in community, but now I see that it is not the weak who look to others for help. Weakness is not the inability to help yourself. Weakness is being too scared to trust people – and God – with the truth of what you need for yourself and asking for them to be partners with you in that transformation.

The important lesson about power that I learned while serving with ESC is that sharing power only grows power, and power is worthless if it’s not shared.