These women are everything that I think nun's are. They wore sari's just like Mother Theresa. They pray slowly and intently, they are quiet, full of love, are gracious, and are very humble. As we were working they would ask, genuinely and excitedly, "do you want to pray a rosary?" And so we would pray as we worked, offering our work up to Jesus and making the time go so quickly.
We painted over 100 folding chairs for their soup kitchen on Monday. On Tuesday, we scrubbed the entirety of the basement in St. Rita's, always working in quite prayer alongside others from our group and a sister and a postulant.
Honestly, I was frustrated a lot during this working time. I didn't see how painting an old chair to make it shiny and new was serving the people. I couldn't see how scrubbing the smudges off of an old stage would feed the homeless. We had minimal interaction with the sisters and with the people they were serving.
Don't get me wrong, I had fun singing with the other students in our group and getting to know them.
But I had come to serve the people. This was a mission trip after all! How was scrubbing in funny aprons and fixing up some paint serving God?
When we finished on Tuesday, Sister Josepha started telling us about all the good that we did. Having nice chairs in a "fancy" soup kitchen respects the dignity of the homeless people they serve. The basement we scrubbed is used for summer camps, religious education, and little parties for the homeless men that they serve on holidays.
It's funny because when we think of service, we usually think of directly helping people. We think of instant gratification, of being able to hear the "thank you" and see the smile of the face of the people. But what Monday and Tuesday of spring break taught me was how important this indirect service is. What took us two days would have taken the sister's weeks and it would have taken away from their ministry. Because we got down and dirty with the oil based paint and the bleach, the sisters were able to devote more of their time to the people. Sister Josepha was so grateful for our work. She told us how much the people she serves would appreciate it.
So while I won't be at the MC's summer camp or at the soup kitchen's Easter party, I can smile knowing that my prayers, sweat, and love went into cleaning that room and painting those chairs made those people's experience with the MC's a little bit better. While I didn't feed them physically, I was able to help feed them spiritually, by helping to respect their dignity as a human person and a child of God.