I have to live where? With whom?

One student’s story of figuring out how to make a home in a cold, bare dorm room with a complete stranger.

As I turned the doorknob and walked in, I stared at the room I would be living in for the next nine months—or possibly four years—of my life. I was greeted by undecorated white walls, empty drawers and closets, and a stack of naked bunk beds. This is supposed to be my home?

I had never left home before. Sure, there were the occasional sleepovers and camp visits, but nothing like going to college. I grew up with two brothers and a bedroom all my own. Now, I had to learn to live with a person I didn’t know in a dorm full of dramatic girls. Honestly, it scared me half to death.

Earlier in the day, I finally met my new roommate, Sara, face-to-face. We both acted polite and sweet, still unsure of each other, but we knew we would have plenty of time to get acquainted. Over the summer, we discussed colors we both liked and hobbies, but now as we had both moved in, we never could have imagined that our stuff would blend together so well. The bright colors in our room practically slapped you in the face—it was perfect!

A few weeks rolled by. Sara and I had always talked about getting curtains in our room, but one thing stood in our way: a curtain rod—or more precisely—the lack of one.

Determinedly, I found the curtain rods at Walmart and picked one out, along with some brightly colored curtains. Sara and I spent the rest of the evening close to the ceiling hanging our new curtains. When we finally finished, we took a step back and reflected on our hard work.

This room looks much better than when I first walked in, that is for sure.

Then I looked at Sara. We had been getting to know each other for a couple months by now and it seemed like a pretty good match. Of course, there were always some things that we didn’t agree on, but every pair has its issues.

Maybe it won’t be so bad living here after all.

It was a Saturday night and I adjusted the pillows behind my back one more time. Movies had always been a Saturday night tradition at home and I was delighted to get one started.  Then, Sara walked in.

“Whatcha doing?”

“Watching a movie,” I answered.

“Oh.”

She stared at me a little while, thinking something I didn’t care to question her about, and then walked to her desk. I discovered early on that if I asked Sara what she thought about, the conversation could go on for hours, so I just pretended like I just didn’t notice something was on her mind. I struggled to get used to someone always in the room with me, because I liked to be alone most of the time. But as I pressed the play button, something nagged at my dusty conscience.

“Sara,” I hesitated, “would you like to watch a movie with me?”

Her face brightened as she accepted my offer. I did my best to smile back. Maybe it’s what all roommates do, but Sara knew exactly how to push my buttons. Talking during movies was the one thing that made me want to pull my hair out, and Sara seemed like the master of it. But I let out a deep breath and chose a movie I had seen about a hundred times so her talking wouldn’t bother me. She snuggled comfortably next to me and I pressed play, trying to keep my cool.

Our laughter filled the room and probably bothered the neighbors at near the halfway point of our second movie. Pop, crackers and candy littered the floor from our movie marathon, and it was well into the morning hours before we said goodnight.

In the dark, my mind wandered. Huh, Sara and I actually had fun together. Maybe next Saturday night I will let her pick the movie.

Months passed and Sara and I got to know each other better. We started talking about small things, such as classes and schedules and slowly our relationship developed into a friendship.

The room rested in darkness, the absence of sound filled it to the brim. Sara and I had said goodnight about five minutes before, but I couldn’t stop thinking. Finally, I gave up and bent over the bunk bed, looking at her upside down.

“Sara! Guess what!”

Sara’s eyes snapped open and her head jerked up like her pillow had suddenly turned to hot coals. I started laughing uncontrollably at her reaction and after realizing what had happened, her laugh joined in. We spent the next fifteen minutes laughing and talking about our day. In the midst of laughing so much it hurt, I thought, it is nights like these that make me feel the most at home.

One Sunday afternoon, I walked into the laundry room to retrieve my laundry and noticed a broken and battered full-length mirror by the trash chute. I felt a pang of sympathy as I examined the mirror’s bumps and bruises. The upper right-hand corner was ripped from its frame and the lower left-hand corner looked like something had smashed into it, creating a spider web of broken glass. I was appalled, especially since it was still useable.

“Don’t worry, little one,” I spoke to it softly. “Just because you’re a little broken doesn’t mean you’re a piece of trash. You’re mine now, and I’m going to fix you up—there’s nothing a little duct tape can’t fix.” I smiled.

As I carried it into my room, I remembered Sara had always wanted her own full-length mirror and I was sure she would love it. When I presented it to her, she reacted with delight and helped me nail it to her closet door. From there I cleaned up the streaks and dust the mirror had accumulated and grabbed my neon pink duct tape to fix the upper right-hand corner. Stepping back I addressed my handywork. “See, now you have a nice home to call your own, little mirror.” I chuckled at my own reflection staring back from the object of my affection.

When I arrived at Union, my past had left me broken and battered. Others had smashed my confidence, leaving the reflection shattered into pieces. But here at Union, God has found me, fixed me up, and given me a home.

I looked at Sara and thought back to all we had gone through together: curtain hanging, movie watching, late night laughing, and room decorating.

Yes, at Union, God had given me a home away from home, because a home is not where you are, it’s what and with whom you inhabit it. 

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