the Goshen College Bulletin | Alumni magazine since 1956

Vita HouseLife is good with Matt and Steve

by Andrew Gerber

Six hungry men sit anxiously at the table, their stomachs growling, while five of them ponder whom the cook will ask to pray. A rule was established during the first month I lived at Vita House that the cook has the right to ask whomever he chooses to say grace. I had the privilege of cooking that evening, so I asked Matt Troyer, the well-known 6-foot-7-inch resident of Vita House, to do the honors.

“Matt, would you please say ‘thanks’?”

“Well, I could say the prayer or Steve could do it.” (Whenever Matt is asked to say prayer, he usually attempts to pass his responsibilities off to the first person he sets his eyes on.)

“Matt, I asked you to pray and I will offer to start or finish the prayer for you,” I persist.

“Ughhh – okay Andrew, I’ll start if you want me to.”

My living environment is rather unique for a 22-year-old college student. While my classmates who see me on campus would probably say that my life seems typical, my entire weekly routine is anything but.

Last spring, I attended a country dance at Vita House, and there I saw Matt interact with nearly everyone in the house. He never wandered too far from his stereo, as he was the DJ, but he was truly the life of the party.

The party made me think about my living situation. I had never felt totally comfortable in the dorms, even considered leaving Goshen College, and I longed to live in an environment that was positive and fulfilling.

After evaluating the Vita House program I decided that I was ready for the challenge of living there, even though it would require much of my time and energy.

I learned that Vita House “caregivers” – the term for the resident college students – are officially responsible for respecting and actively facilitating the residents’ rights, dignity and well-being. Since becoming a caregiver, however, I’ve found that living with Matt and fellow Mennonite Disabilities Committee resident Steve Lang is a learning experience as well.

Becoming a caregiver does not require past work experience with developmentally disabled persons, but it does mean having an open mind, being willing to learn, having patience and showing love. For some, choosing to live at Vita may take a leap of faith, but that leap will have its fulfilling moments.

One of those moments for me was when an MDC resident told me, as I picked him up from a workshop, “Andrew, I like you.”

In that moment, I understood that there was a meaning to life that I was just beginning to learn. I realized I am in this world to help others, love others – not just to make decisions in my life that benefit me.

I’m grateful for the Vita House program, and to MDC and Goshen College for providing it. At Vita House I am accepted for exactly who I am – my abilities and inabilities make no difference. I will always have a home at Vita House. I’ve grown much closer to my housemates at Vita House in seven month’s time than I ever thought I would. These housemates, my friends, I am proud to call my family.

Andrew Gerber (So., Sellersville, Pa.) is a communication major.
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