Olivia Rhondeau is a recent college graduate who reflects here on what she learned from living with a diverse group of roommates.
My university drop-off was less than an ideal, bravely walking into my future experience. No matter how much I tried to muster up excitement and courage, I was afraid of all of the newness that lay ahead of me. Particularly frightening to me was the idea of living with five complete strangers. I had grown up with the dearest best friends, and for the first time in my life I was without them. After finding enough courage to step out of the car and into an unknown future, I met roommates who were a highlight of my university experience. These strangers soon became some of my dearest friends—a refuge, great confidants, and a source of strength during difficult times. So how did this shift occur, this change from strangers to friends? It certainly wasn’t the result of any obvious similarities—we all came from very different backgrounds and had varying interests. It happened when our apartment became a place of love and acceptance, a place where the Spirit could reside. Galatians 5:22–23 describes the fruits of the Spirit as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness [and] temperance.”
The first fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians—love—has been the foundation of creating a home filled with the Spirit. Love has many different facets and ways of manifesting itself, and in this case, I learned that I needed to know my roommates—really know who they are. I have found that it is difficult not to love someone if you truly know them. Getting to know your roommates—their struggles, their happiness, their quirks, their weaknesses—allows you to understand and love them. This in turn allows your home to be a place where the Spirit resides. Nearly every night my roommates and I would talk about the highs and lows of the day, learning and uniting the details of our different lives. Some nights we would kneel in prayer together as well.
Each individual comes from vastly different backgrounds, and combining ideas of what it means to create a home can be a difficult process. Elder F. Enzio Busche said, “When you cannot love someone, look into that person’s eyes long enough to find the hidden rudiments of the child of God in him.” Any time I would begin to feel contentious or impatient, remembering this truth would remind me of my roommates’ strengths and divine heritage. My own weakness was preventing me from loving them. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Every man has his secret sorrows which the world knows not; and often times we call a man cold when he is only sad.” At times when I found it difficult to connect with certain roommates, this quote became a guidepost for me. I found that when I thought someone was cold or unkind, they were usually struggling with something and were simply sad. Moroni 7:48 advises us to “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.” I know of no other way to better invite the Spirit than by loving people and cultivating a spirit and an environment of Christlike love.
Because love is the root and also the fruit of the Spirit, the Spirit cannot reside in a place where love does not exist. Learn to love the details of who your roommates are, and amazing things will happen.