“Community is much more than belonging to something; it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter.” – Brian Solis
Teachers are accustomed to serving others. Each day in the classroom – and sometimes beyond – teachers do their best to meet the needs of all the children in their care. No small feat, teachers must balance different learning styles, academic levels, unique family needs and the personal situations of all of their students. In short, though they are paid for their work with children, teaching is both a job and a vocation to serve children the way only teachers can.
In the midst of serving their students, teachers are also teaching them how to serve others. From organizing Layette Drives, collecting Free Dress monies slated for our mission trips, and even learning to work with their fellow students, teachers teach service and by extension, unselfishness. Students learn valuable lessons about the purpose, value, and joy of serving others. In doing so, both teachers and students live out their faith in dozens of constructive ways each day.
Recently, however, the tables were turned and our teachers became the taught. Last week, schools in the Drexel System were encouraged to participate in a day of service. At Holy Spirit School, we chose to participate in our Parish’s Sandwich Ministry that feeds the homeless. Over twenty teachers met in the Parish offices to learn the fine art of making sandwiches from our intrepid leader, Pastoral Associate, Merry Reardon. Like a well-oiled machine, she helped us set up various stages of an assembly line for sandwich fixings – bread, turkey or bologna, and cheese – chips, cookies, and a drink. “Baggied up” and placed in paper sacks, the food and drinks were loaded in our cars for the trip downtown.
Our mission for the day was simple. After we arrived at St. James Park, we broke into groups and were instructed to walk up to one of the many homeless persons gathered in the park and ask, “Would you like a lunch?” Our brief interaction ended with, “God bless you!” in return. We also offered large plastic bags for storing their wet clothing from the recent rains and extra water bottles. It took us less than thirty minutes to distribute almost 100 lunches
While our task was simple and accomplished quickly, the impact of our actions upon each of us was lasting and profound. Handing a stranger a lunch is a fairly straightforward experience, but to see their faces light up with the joy of receiving something so simple is hard to forget. Most poignant of all, this joy and appreciation were reflected in our own eyes each time our offer was accepted. We may not have changed any lives on this particular day, but we did make – for a brief moment – a few people’s lives a little easier and happier.
The old adage states that it is always better to give than to receive. Based on our experiences on this day, there is no doubt in my mind of its truth. In serving others each day in our classrooms, it is equally compelling to step outside occasionally and serve others in true need. Being good role models of our faith requires nothing less . . .