One of the things I noticed about myself early on in my discernment was a deep need for my work to mean something. At the time I was studying to be an aerospace engineer and my great concern was that I might end up in some government job and one day be asked to design a fighter jet or a weapon. Even though I changed courses to a career which makes me significantly happier my desire for what I do to mean something in the world today has not changed. Many people assume my greatest connection to my ministry is through my work with the poor and homeless who come to eat, and while these are the people I literally serve I do not think I have ever felt that they have been the focus of my ministry. The people I really feel I serve are those who have been mandated by the court to do community service. These are some of the most startlingly interesting people I have ever met; and each one reminds me of the line in “The Circle of Mercy” which exhorts us to forgive the incompleteness in another. At first I did not like the people who were there to help in the kitchen, my pre-conceived notions got the better of me I’m afraid. These were criminals after all. As I grew into my ministry I learned that these drunk drivers, addicts, and small time thieves are just as incomplete and in need of service as anyone of us. The greatest joy in my day is when someone completes their required hours and tells me they had fun, or learned something, or that they’d like to come back. That’s when I feel I have made a difference because that’s when I believe that I helped someone find a little more completeness in their life.
Another great thing which has come to me through my work at the soup kitchen is the joy of receiving support from my local community. The sisters I live with have helped me process various struggles. Sisters donated their spare change when we needed eggs, and some have even covered for me when I went on retreat. It’s not always easy for me to ask for help, and receiving such deeply needed help has taught me a lot about what I think Catherine meant when she talked about charity. I’m used to being on the giving end and having this role reversed has helped me to see the love in the giver, something I always knew was there but rarely experienced especially in such a deep way as having a dire need met. This experience has also helped me to grow in solidarity with all the people I serve who depend on the soup kitchen to fulfill their basic needs.