In various ways in the past week I have been experiencing one of the less pleasant aspects of most experiments: dealing with my own limitations and weaknesses.
Last Wednesday I had another day in the community café, but rather than coming out of my shell and talking more with the customers – for much of the day I positioned myself squarely in front of the sink and washed dished. The dishes needed cleaning but I’m supposed to be there mainly to talk to people. On Sunday I went to help at our soup kitchen and valiantly went to sit at a table with some guests. I could hardly understand a word the woman on my left said and exhausted the conversation with her friend to my right in four sentences. A fellow-volunteer then came along and before long the man was telling her his life story. Part of the problem I realise is that I don’t really care for the people.
At least twice in the time I have been here I’ve opened the front door and been faced with a stranger who has just walked in – they are people who have been many times before and don’t expect to give an explanation but I don’t know them and should have held the door and engaged them instead of being steam-rolled.
On Saturday afternoon I went to the Occupy at St Paul’s with our newest volunteer and while I went and saw and was ready to go home in a few minutes he was all fired up and determined to return before the expected eviction later this week. While there I pushed myself to overcome my natural inclination to avoid conversation with any of the people selling their particular protest and listened to a man and signed his petition against government cuts. With hindsight I’m not sure how genuine the petition was and I realised that I gave my address to a member of a revolutionary communist group – that would have been a boundary worth keeping.
I am hearing people in and around the Catholic Worker talking about their activism and direct actions that they have taken. They are telling me more about the negative effects of militarism which gives me a feeling that I don’t want to do nothing – that is not how the new world order of the Kingdom will come about. On Monday evening I went on an errand to the Missionaries of Charity – radical in a different way – and I was really touched by the care and love expressed by the sister for the people she serves and for God. She left me with no doubt about her commitment to the Kingdom and doing the hard things that may be necessary to help bring it about.
Being the weak, cowardly, ungenerous, incompetent person I feel myself to be, I can’t even imagine being able to do anything. The challenging message of the Sermon on the Mount has been in my mind:
How blessed are the poor in spirit: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
Blessed are the gentle: they shall have the earth as inheritance.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for uprightness: they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the pure in heart: they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognised as children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
Your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven.
I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
I’m here (as a novice, perhaps also this experiment) because I feel that God has called me here – I’ve asked before whether God got the wrong person and the answer has been: “You did not choose me, no I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last…” I don’t know where the fruit will come from but I hope that this is still the case.
p.s. to break the monotony of the Geoff show we might have another author next week.