Intersection House: Beginnings

When I was at San Diego State University I had countless blessings. A boyfriend I was ridiculously in love with. A major, Social Work, that I believed would help me make a difference in children’s lives. A group of playful, intellectual, stimulating friends to share thoughts with. And being accepted as one of the residents of the communal home, Intersection House.

What was Intersection House?

Hard to define. Officially Intersection House was a student residence run by Campus Christian Ministries that housed up to six students . Using a converted home next to SDSU on Fraternity Row, it was founded in the 60’s by Presbyterian minister, Dave Burnight. After working with Martin Luther King Jr. on his march to Montgomery, Dave had a vision to create a ministry of growing faith and love. With vegetarian suppers, meetings for civil rights and peace advocacy, and a community which practiced spiritual universals, they welcomed everyone’s truth.

Perfect for a Unitarian born-too-late-to-be-a-hippie like me.

I’ll never forget waiting to hear if I’d made it into I-House. Through most of my junior year I’d been hanging out at there. I’d joined a campus club called the Student Peace Education Committee to reverse nuclear proliferation which often met at Intersection to brainstorm.

This was different from other clubs I’d joined. All of the members; Ron, Richard, Chris, Margy, Gary, and others, brought vivid discourse to the group creating a rare synergy. Sitting in the living room with a tree which served as a support post, we’d look up to the branches that touched the ceiling and let them lead our conversations upwards to the canopy of our minds. Hoping that the filtered light through their leaves would shine in the decision-makers’s eyes until they saw the folly of having enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over.

The Tree as a Support Beam

Have you ever touched utopia? Feeling like you’re on the cusp of something so sublime and perfect, that God’s hand is guiding your every movement? I hope so, because that’s what this time in my life was like and it altered the way I view the world irrevocably. I’d always been an idealist believing that I had the power to effect change, but this particular period transcended my natural optimism. The Intersection hours were bathed in filtered light as if a vignetting camera were blurring every edge in soft focus..

Even today I draw upon this optimism when life’s burdens challenge me.

Later I started attending their Tuesday night vegetarian suppers and met some of the residents. I loved those nights! The evening would begin with everyone facing inward in a circle smiling at one another. Dave Burnight might start with a prayer, quote, or simple hello. Then we were asked to massage the person’s shoulder’s to our left.

And we did so.

“Now for our friends to the right,” he’d quip, a political joke. We were definitely left. Tee hee!

And after this massage we were welcomed to line up for whatever vegetarian dish the residents had spent the afternoon concocting. Shyly I introduced myself around and was surprised that everyone welcomed me with open arms.

I was blown away by their kindness.

Anyhow, between my junior and senior years I heard there was a spot at I-House opening up, and immediately applied. I was afraid that chances were slim for an insecure girl often silenced by the past but at the same time another part of me dared to dream of overcoming the fists and ridicule from childhood.

I think I bit every nail to the quick while waiting to hear. But when I learned I’d passed to the interview stage, my stomach did those crazy wow-cant-believe-it flip-flops.

I remember walking into the meeting, heart pounding and sweat beading on my upper lip. I wanted so much to be a resident but was worried I’d say something to mess it up.

I sat in the living room looking for strength in the tree that held up one wall as a group of residents and Dave asked me questions about my faith and activism. They wanted me to explain why I was worthy of such a prestigious slot. Six was the maximum they allowed in the house, and only a couple were available each semester. With a shaking voice, I answered as truthfully as I could, sure my shyness was getting in the way of my sincerity.

I wanted to say how I-House had already changed for the better. That I would work hard as a resident. That all I wanted to do was make a difference by promoting peace and fostering altruism. Instead I stuttered with every response, hemming and hawing my way through the interview.

Replaying every stupid answer, I walked away head hanging in shame. What was in my heart would forever stay hidden because the words wouldn’t come. Why wasn’t I eloquent like Ron or hippy light like Kelly?

But I knew that I could contribute to Intersection House! It was conceived for people, like me, who believe in the possibility of creating a better world. But had I convinced the panel? I had no idea.

When I finally heard, I gigglingly exhaled the breath I’d been holding for weeks. I was in! What a dream. Laurie Woodward was going to be serving Tuesday night suppers, swimming in a peace dove painted pool, and waking to Ron, Rosie, Victor, and Davida’s trilling voices.

I couldn’t wait to move in.

Intersection House, a place for dreamers and activists. For searchers and spiritualists. For Christians and Buddhists and Jews; and others just trying to figure it all out. It would be my home for my senior year.

A home I carry with me to this day.

Laurie Woodward is the author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. She co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at

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