Perhaps I am an odd person to write on household life. I am not a member of a household, nor do I think that I will ever join one, because I do not feel it is right for me personally.
But I recognize that households can be, and often are, wonderful communities which truly help people. Some of my best friends are in households, and they draw such goodness and strength from them. Yet, even from the outside, I have begun to see that there are real flaws in this system.
Households can be beautiful, wonderful things, and some households on campus truly live up to their calling. But in practice, households are also often cliques because we suffer from the misconception that households are friend groups. Shouldn’t the two be different?
Households should be spiritual communities, groups of young men or women committed to helping each other grow stronger and holier. This is not to say that households must be serious and can’t have fun — they should be fun! But when we make households merely established, spiritual friend groups, we ultimately create a culture of cliques.
If people have trouble being friends with students outside of their household, that’s a problem with households. If a household member is excluded for not fitting the “mold,” that’s a problem. If a group of students forms a new household to fit their friend group, that’s a problem. If a household is more effective as a gossip producer than a support group, that’s a problem. If what is good for “household” is more important than what is good for the members, that’s a problem.
All of this pettiness only perpetuates the loneliness of a college campus.
And as the recent feature article on households pointed out, this is indeed a problem with the current state of households — not because one Troubadour writer said so but because the interviewed students within the heart of household life said so, and because so many students around campus have told me the very same thing.
I hope this letter does not come across as a household bash-fest. As I said, there are many households and household members whom I love, respect and admire, and so many good things are happening right now. New households are forming to fill in gaps in our community; old households are being revitalized with new spirit and new love. We are creating a more welcoming, more beautiful community.
But it is going to take work, and the first step will be admitting our errors — we cannot as a community ignore that these problems do exist. Admitting mistakes and accepting criticism is humbling, but isn’t humility a huge part of the Franciscan charisma? If household members are called to critique and challenge each other, to help each other grow, why can’t households be challenged to grow, and to grow together? And how can I help?