Recently I had the pleasure of reading an article in The Catholic Worker about one of its Hospitality Houses, St. Joseph’s. It was written by a volunteer, Megan Townsend, who regularly goes there to serve and to socialize with the many others who grace St. Joe’s with their unique and important presence.
The more I read this short, but profound article, the more I realized it reflected much of what Imai Sensei’s Yomawari does for the homeless here in Sendai. Let me quote a few excerpts to illustrate what I mean.
“As I volunteered more often and got to know this … interdependent community, it felt a lot less like service and a lot more like sharing . . . As I watched people on the house at St. Joe’s greeting people . . . I observed this casual ease of giving.
“. . . I admired the way they would act as if giving away whatever they could was just something they should do. It is natural . . . I would watch volunteers at St. Joe’s ask someone their name, shake their hand, and then joke with them as if they had known each other for years (which in some cases they have!) . . . Asking someone their name is just the beginning of the relationship, an invitation to community.
“The importance of humanizing each other . . . (allows each of us to) feel known and loved . . . My greatest joy is . . . making acts of serving (be) . . . familiar rather than impersonal.”
Last week I had the privilege of taking two students to volunteer at Imai Sensei’s soup run. One had been before, and since the experience impressed her so deeply, she asked a friend to join her. It was lovely watching them interacting with the men and women, both volunteers and guests. They treated all the people there with great kindness and respect, just as they themselves were treated.