Sunday, June 8, 2008

Through My Lonely Window

Last month, the Holy Family Soup Kitchen and Pantry in the Franklinton area of Columbus Ohio, was robbed of two large refrigeration compressors and copper piping. Two months’ worth of food was spoiled, and the Kitchen had to shut its doors.

It will open again soon, due to many donations from people in the Columbus area. Perhaps this is because it has garnered much publicity in the local media.

Before this event, most people of Columbus had no idea that this kitchen even existed. But let me tell you, that it has diligently been feeding people (they went from feeding fifty people a week to up to a thousand in one day) for a long time. It is located in an area, where most suburbanites would have nightmares about finding themselves stranded with a flat tire. It is called home to many of the street people that most of us turn an eye to.

The Pantry also gives food to 0ne hundred families.

It is a Catholic charity. I am not Catholic, but a couple of years ago I found myself devoting one day of my week to volunteering there. It’s funny how these things happen. My friend, who is Jewish, was a volunteer there, and she asked me if I would be interested coming with her to help one day. After that Monday, the rest of my Mondays were penciled into my calendar.

Don’t you just love America- Here we are, my Jewish friend (who was married to a Congregational minister) and me, a WASP, working in a Catholic Church basement.

Now my job, ended up as the dishwasher. In the summer months, it could get to around 140 degrees back in the kitchen. In fact, often times I could lose five pounds of weight in just one morning shift. And it was hard work; fast and furious (one thousand trays sprayed down and put through a sanitizer). Weirdly enough, I found it to have a Zen type of quality to it. I could un-clutter my mind.

Now, my view to the dining hall, was through a little window, and I guess the view of me from the hall, was of a non-descript man passionately throwing his arms about, twisting and turning.

This brings me to why I’m bringing this all up-

Something happened one day that I’m still wrestling with. At first, I took it as a complement. As time has passed, it has taken on deeper meaning. One of the diners, when putting his tray through the window (he looked like someone straight out of central casting for the homeless), looked straight at me and said, “You know, you’re going to Heaven”, turned around and walked away.

This is something that is certainly beyond my capacity as a flawed human being to understand, but I have locked it away for those times when I have needed it; to put me back on track and put my life into perspective.

It is little things like this, that happen to us in our life, which helps us to acquire security, true happiness, forgiveness, freedom from guilt, an adequate purpose for living, and insight for living. And most importantly of all, when I get too self absorbed, it can provide me with the power for change. As far as my spiritual life is concerned: doing seems so much more practical than praying. If this message through the window was an answer, well who can argue.

2 comments:

Janice Phelps Williams said...

Sometimes it's difficult to tell who is the giver and who is the recipient. It takes humility to acknowledge we can learn a lot from people we are trying to help. I've been on both ends of the scale, and in these economic times a lot of people secure at one end, have found themselves at the other. I hope we all remember it's the doing that matters, not the talk, like you said.
I like the way you describe the view of you to those on the other side of the window...

Dances with Parrots said...

Men on the other side of my window...

My next-door neighbor, and friend, in the '90s was a monsignor, ith his office at Holy Family Church.

When I congratulated him for having an interesting and beautifully landscaped yard--and mine being a scruffy neighborhood eyesore, he gave me the phone number of one of his friends from Holy Family.

" 'Mike and his guys can help you with yours,' " my neighbor said.

Being totally non-Catholic, and never having heard of Holy Family (except for the group under the Christmas tree), I called Mike.

Mike, the one I ID'd as crew leader, and three other men, arrived early the next morning.

With me, the eager fetcher of tools, cool water, and trash bags, trying to do my part but not being a klutz, the guys wiped out brush, bristle, weeds, and low-hanging stuff from the jungle at the rear of my property.

This continued for the next two weeks, various men of all ages, accents, funkiness of clothing, color, smells,and ability to speak, all focused on their goal: to help make my yard into a place that could rival a small city park.

When the job was completed, and I made the last payment, Mike told me that the guys liked working on my yard because I was respectful of them and appreciated everything they did.

Curious about his statement, I asked him why they would think someone wouldn't be.

Mike told me that they were all homeless guys from Holy Family church, and they had come to expect people not to make eye contact, ignore their presence and, basically, to disrespect them.

Maybe these were men on the other side of "my" window, but together we helped that funky Clintonville yard be a more beautiful place.