This holiday season, like every holiday season, at the St. Vincent de Paul Georgia main offices, we hosted and served a meal for people in need in the area. Our guests were the people that we help everyday with emergency food bags or those who come in and use our computer lab to look for work or to just keep a connection to the rest of the world. We had our staff, some members of the Board of Directors, and some of our regular volunteers working to set up, serve the food, and clean up.
This wasn’t any big deal really; many of you reading this do it all the time at your place of worship, or community center, or at another ministry in the area where you live. I used to take my kids to serve meals at a place in Marietta when we first moved here in 1992 and I did that regularly for many, many years. It was in fact how I was first introduced to SVdP and began working with them as a volunteer long before being hired as the CEO/Executive Director in 2006.
The most important part of that afternoon was not that we fed the folks that came, but that we ate with the folks that came. We sat at the same tables and we shared the same meal and we shared a half an hour or so of humanity and fellowship. We did not just feed the hungry through the turkey, ham, and side dishes that we provided on a plate; we fed the basic need that each one of us has to connect with another human being in fellowship and respect and love.
That connection, that humanity, is what makes the work of St. Vincent de Paul, through our ‘home visit’ such a vital, unique, and important part of the work of the Society. But is important to understand that the ‘home’ in home visit is going to be different for different people. A home visit can occur in many places. It doesn’t have to occur within the confines of someone’s living room or kitchen table. If someone’s home is their car or the bridge over the highway, or the park then what?
You may recall the old expression, “Home is where the heart is”. And in the Gospels we hear “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:21, Luke 12:34.
So maybe those two very different sources can lead us to an acceptable answer to the question. The ‘home’ in which we are called to serve people in need is not a physical building or a room that we have arbitrarily deemed a home.
Rather it is a place where two hearts, guided and touched by love and respect in ways we can never fully understand, come together. And in that coming together we bring the treasure of our humanity and celebrate its wonderfulness.
And maybe for someone that ‘home’ for a few hours was just a turkey dinner on a plastic plate eaten at a folding table and chairs in the middle of an office. But that time was shared with another human being who brought the reassure of their presence – and it was good.
May you and yours enjoy a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, or other celebration in this season of joy; and a very Happy New Year.