Over a year into our project here on Juniper Hill, and the guys are somewhat settled into a routine. It is a Saturday morning in January, snowy and cold… and we have finished with the morning farm and animal chores. Brent has made fires in the fireplaces and sits playing ‘Math Bingo’ on the IPAD. Andy has cooked up a great breakfast on his own… scrambled eggs with cheese of course… but also onions, ham and mushrooms. Ray is playing acoustic heavy metal music, and no one is complaining. He is researching information on foxes and dogs on the internet. And Michael is talking about dinner ideas, Saturday is his night to cook. Jose is with his family at a party this weekend, and Patrick went to his parent’s house to welcome his brother home from Afghanistan.
It sounds a bit like a bunch of college guys, and at first glance it looks that way as well. Jeans and hoodies, gently worn furniture, popcorn and empty ramen containers in the trash…..and music going, all of the time. Cluttered bedrooms that could always use a vacuum.
What a difference a year makes…
Just a short year ago... the guys were starting to get to know each other. They hadn’t really ever cooked a meal, shopped for groceries, kept a house clean, gotten up on their own for a job. They had never lived closely with peers… real peers…..and they weren’t really sure they even wanted to. As the months went on, they all went through periods of doubt. Everyone here has ‘issues’. Everyone here does something that annoys someone else here. In many ways, it was easier just being home with parents.
But somewhere around early autumn, things started to change. Two of the guys had already had a serious altercation in July. That was when we all realized just how much fear and uncertainty was involved in the making of new friends…. and we started to talk about it at dinnertime. So much trust developed over food! Within minutes of the incident in July, both guys had been desperate to make amends. It became obvious to everyone that they all just wanted the other guys to like them, even if the other guys were annoying. They cared more about friendship than quirks and social missteps. Acceptance and trust, it’s what it’s all about.
Last night, Sunday evening, Patrick came home from being at his parent’s all weekend. He lives with Brent and Ray in the rancher, with minimal supervision. His sink was full of dirty dishes, the living room cluttered with Ray’s personal possessions, empty popcorn bags and banana peels. Patrick and Ray had some angry words, and Ray came down to the other house in frustration. The rest of us were all there, getting ready for dinner and hanging out. Within minutes, Patrick came down to the house. Together in the other room they talked it out, it took all of 2 minutes. No one else got involved. Ray went up to their house and cleaned up, and after dinner Patrick, Ray and Brent went up to their house together…. Patrick shared his Girl Scout thin mints that he had bought from his niece, and they polished off the entire box together.
Now that’s family…