Allison’s Story: It Takes a Village

Sometimes I try to do everything at once. Like that time back in 2014 when I gave birth to our daughter, packed up the house, had a surgery, and flew across the country with our newborn and toddler, all in one month.  We arrived in South Bend and met my husband at our new home in University Village, where an Everest of unpacked boxes swallowed us. Still recovering from both childbirth and surgery, I wondered many times just what we had gotten ourselves into.

Within days of our arrival, my body decided all this action in one month was too much. I developed an infection that quickly became rather serious, causing high fevers and seizure-like episodes. I was rushed to the ER where they made an initial diagnosis and prescribed antibiotics. The doctor wanted to admit me to the hospital, but with a husband in the first weeks of graduate school and a newborn needing me at home, I refused. Perhaps he was right that I needed the hospital supervision; the very next day the fevers spiked again, and this time worse. The medicine was not working. Another ER visit, another medicine that did not work. At the next ER visit it became apparent that the infection had become systemic and finding the right medicine was paramount.  After some time at the hospital on a different medicine, my fever began to come down. The symptoms lessened, and I was able to return home. It would take many months for my body to fully recover from the infection, during which time I experienced nearly constant fatigue.

Recently I’ve reflected on the Grace that helped me get through that difficult time of illness and recovery. Often God administers grace to us through other people. This was the case for me, that fall of 2014. I did not know a single soul when I arrived to South Bend. But we were immediately welcomed at The Village. Perfect strangers who had heard I had a newborn and a recent surgery brought in meals.  A neighbor watched my kids while I unpacked some basics. People assured me we would adjust to this new place and that we would love it.

When my illness hit, The Village sustained us again. Villagers watched our kids while my husband took me to the hospital and we figured out my situation. They fed our son meals and bottle fed our daughter while I was away. After I returned, concerned neighbors brought in more meals. In the months that followed one neighbor helped me figure out how to navigate the diet that was prescribed for me to follow after my infection. Another neighbor regularly saw how fatigued I looked and would say, “You look tired, Allison. Your kids can come over and play anytime.” The ministrations of our neighbors provided an emotional lifeline for me and my family.

That school year was one of the most challenging seasons of my life. But it was also one of the times I have received the most service and kindness from others. It was a beautiful and painful combination, and one that I needed to experience.

During our years in The Village, our family shared meals with neighbors from all over the world. We built memories with other families, supported one another and forged bonds that are still strong today. The sisterhood between graduate student wives was sustaining for so many of us. We crunched across the icy playground when kids were asleep and husbands were studying to sip warm drinks and unload burdens, share hopes, and commit to goals. We celebrated American, Chinese, and Indian holidays together. We discussed parenting concerns and questions on the playground. We rode the Sweep up to campus to visit spouses on lunch breaks. The Village was an orienting place for me during my husband’s graduate years. It is an orienting place for so many, particularly those who come to Notre Dame from other countries with a second language and an unfamiliar culture to face in addition to their graduate work.

Demolishing The Village, will not only destroy old buildings. It will destroy a unique community that has been decades in the making. Student families, who come from far and wide to study at Notre Dame, will no longer have the orienting place that I found that fall of 2014.  The Village is much more than on-campus housing. It is a diverse, extended family that supports all those who live there during their graduate school experiences.

For the sake of all who may benefit in the future, don’t destroy The Village. If the buildings must be demolished, please create a new place for graduate student families, where the spirit of The Village can live on and continue to bless lives.

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