It’s been quite a while since I last wrote the Project SERVE blog – it was back in September 2014, in fact – and a lot has happened in that time. As a community, we have gone from tentative explorers of the city to relatively competent denizens of the concrete jungle, from a certain mastery of public transportation and street navigation to knowledge of the different city districts and the food, entertainment, and sightseeing there within.
As a community, we have weathered the ups and downs of the realities of our jobs at Catholic Charities; every single day we see people who deal with poverty, drug/alcohol abuse, poor education, mental illness, and homelessness. As a community, we have all been overwhelmed at one point or another by the sheer immensity and longevity of these problems and we’ve asked ourselves what we could possibly do against such impossible forces. On the other hand, every member of our community has come home and told an uplifting story of some sort, whether it be about how a student at Villa Maria was able to stand up and sing in front of the whole school despite doubts and fears, or about how much progress an immigrant at the Esperanza Center has made in ESL classes or in attaining citizenship. As a community, we all have seen how an organization like Catholic Charities truly does make an immense difference in so many lives, and our experiences so far have led us to a deeper understanding of these problems and the ongoing needs of Baltimore’s less fortunate. Even though we’ve far passed the halfway mark of our time as Project SERVE volunteers and even though we may have long ago entered into a comfortable routine, I think that we still have more to learn and to experience.
The easiest thing in the world would be to become dulled to our jobs, or to give up on community living, for whatever our reasons, but that’s precisely why we shouldn’t. There’s a reason why there’s so much conflict and “us and them” attitudes in the world, with so many things stacked against a reasonable standard of living for everyone. It’s because it’s harder to shake an enemy’s hand and let bygones be bygones or to stand up for equality and justice than it is to turn a blind eye to the injustices in the world, to look at a homeless person and think the only thing standing in their way is their own motivation to just get a job already. It’s harder to do the right thing. But to do nothing at all, to be content in thinking that at least that person’s problems aren’t your own and to pretend everything’s copacetic, is to let evil win.
Every day presents a new problem or a new person to deal with in our jobs, as it does with everyone in Catholic Charities, but it’s in the attitude we all take about it that makes the real difference. Sure, the bottom line is that Catholic Charities and all its volunteers and workers do a whole lot of good in Baltimore, from feeding and housing people to providing services to help people feed and house themselves, among other things. Yet often our attitude toward a situation or problem significantly effects how well it gets done, and in a service-based organization such as this half the battle is fought with kindness and positive personal relations. What good is it if our attitudes don’t reflect our mission? The reason all of us in Catholic Charities do the jobs we do may vary, but in the end, the nature of our jobs is not about making a lot of money and buying a big house.
It’s about the people we serve, and one of the most valuable things we can give our clients is to treat them like the Queen of England in a society that treats them like human refuse. A kind word or even a smile can uplift a person’s spirit, and it can show a person how valuable they really are when all they’ve heard is how they are so very worthless. To truly cherish the divine with all and to be truly committed to a Maryland where each person has the opportunity to reach his or her God-given potential through loving, serving, teaching, and working for justice, we must remember that God made every person that walks through our doors, God loves every person that walks through our doors, and God has a plan for every person that walks through our doors. It’s easy to lose sight of that in the day-to-day work grind, and nobody’s going to be able to fully commit because we’re all only human, but together we can strive to make the world a better place, one smile at a time. So here I am challenging each and every one of you to truly think about the way in which you do what you do in Catholic Charities and to ask yourself if you should reassess your attitude in order to refresh your perspective so you can bring God’s rejuvenation not only to yourself but to anyone you meet.