Monday, February 2, 2009

World's Apart - Yet So Much the Same

What a SuperBowl game!
Sunday night, my family gathered at my house for a SuperBowl party. I'd never thrown a football party and didn't consider it until my sister said "Hey. We need to have a party. Let's have a party!" So, knowing I just purchased a cute little crock pot for dips - I needed a good excuse to break it in. What better way than a get-together.

After Mass on Sunday, I loaded the kids in the van and we drove all over town finding good food to eat. Chili, meatballs, pigs in a blanket, apple pie, chips, dip, crackers, sodas...all the staples of having a party. Rushing home to prepare everything, as well as getting the house in order for guests was paramount. The kids cleaned and I prepared food. We had a streamlined operation and by 5:00 PM everything was ready.

As I stood back and watched the kids munch on the food, my house fill with people who are close to me, and watching football on a nice new television I reflected upon the experience we had the day before and said a quiet prayer of thanksgiving for all I have.

My family (along with my sister and her three girls - two of which are teenagers) headed down to Veteran's Park to help serve a light lunch to the homeless of Grand Rapids. This was our first time there, and I had no idea what to expect - and neither did the kids. I simply asked them to dress warm, offer a smile and use their manners. While it was cold outside, we were bundled warm and ready to serve.

It didn't take long before a few people came out from the warmth of the public library to grab a cup of soup, sandwich and hot chocolate. Some stayed only for a moment, as they were not dressed to be out in the elements. Others - while you understood they were cold - stayed to talk and share a bit of their life stories. I could feel the gratitude, the thanks and sense of hope. There was positive energy - in light of the circumstances for each one of the people we met.

The impact was made upon my nieces and the discussion afterwards about those we met wanting to get a job to help get them out of their current situation. Such as not being able to afford the bus pass to look for work or having to fill out an application for a job and not having a permanent residence, to the challenges of having a cell phone with pre-paid minutes and running out while you wait to hear from a prospective employer. The challenges go beyond the situations that may have brought them to being homeless - the addictions that envelop their lives - but even if they were to defeat the one aspect, how do you actually climb out of the hole that seems so deep? Katie and Sarah were able to see just how deep the challenges run and I think it made them understand a bit more.

I think, too, that the kids were able to really get an understanding that while we live completely different lives, we all want the same thing: Someone to talk with, someone that is willing to listen, someone that can not stand in judgement; someone that offers compassion and a smile and makes them feel appreciated and needed at the same time.

One man, Bernie, challenged us - "Why do you come out here, freeze in this weather to hand out food?" My immediate answer was for the friends, the conversations and the enjoyment and satisfaction of serving. Yet, Amy was a bit more to the point of the "Holy Spirit is moving."

I consider too - how serving - giving of my time and energy may not be just because I want to - as opposed to maybe I'm being led to. I'm not an overly religious person. In fact, my struggles with faith and the Church often leave me exhausted. I wish I had the faith that would allow me to undeniably say with whole hearted confidence that the Holy Spirit moved me to serve. The Holy Spirit was the driving force. But I cannot. I think it is more of a self centered approach for the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment I gain. I'll be honest - I am not purely altruistic!

So, for those who may want to help out on a Saturday morning - please do - for whatever reason that motivates you! Perhaps the more often I volunteer, I'll see the Holy Spirit. I only have to be willing to have my eyes and heart open. Maybe the spirit moves you. Maybe it doesn't. Maybe this is the path that will aide in helping those like me, who struggle with faith to find the answers we seek.

So, from the comfort of my home, I look outside and think of Andy, Richard, Bernie, David and those whose names I didn't catch, and I hope they are warm today. I hope they are one step closer to finding their way to personal satisfaction and renewed faith...just like me.

Jenny Frasco