One of my favorite ways I like to serve God by serving others, to love God by loving others, is by helping to serve food at a soup kitchen in my community. Now what usually happens is that a church from within the denomination will come and help, they utilize the kitchen, they make the meal and usually bring some volunteers as well.
Usually the help is, well, helpful, but my contention at times is that sometimes volunteers will retreat away and out of sight of the individuals they just served. I don’t know exactly the reasons they do this, but I take it personally because it sets the stage for the paradigm of “us vs them”.
Personally I enjoy serving others, and if there’s enough food I enjoy sitting and eating and talking to those around me.
Community, I believe, involves being as well as serving, taking time to get to know the people is a major component.
The way I look at when it comes to the soup kitchen is that if we’re coming as the hands and feet of God to serve the people who come, we should compelled to be with them as well. I call this interaction “swimming the river”.
Here’s the context to swimming the river; the movie clip below is from one of my favorite movies The Motorcycle Diaries in which one of the main characters Ernesto “Che” Guevara is visiting a leper colony in Peru. Ernesto quickly gathers up that the doctors are on one side of the Amazon River and the patients are on the other side of the colony, there is a separation, there is an “us vs them” paradigm that exists. While not historically accurate, the clip of the movie speaks volumes, click below…
Ernesto swam across to be with people he was serving, Ernesto swam to the community he was a part of for a short while…
Jesus did that when he lived and walked some 2000 years ago. He taught, he sat, he ate, he laughed and he even cried in community. Jesus spoke about how he would not always be with us (physically speaking) but that the poor will be with you always.
So to serve the poor and to distance yourself from them after serving them strikes me as offensive and going against the Gospel message, for it is one thing to talk about God in the context of church or what have you, but to not live it out, to not take it where the rubber hits the road, to not swim against whatever your version of the Amazon River looks like… It breaks the heart of God, because we’re called to serve and to be.
May God bless you on the journey you’re on, and whatever Amazon Rivers you cross in life, may God give you the strength and fortitude to simply do that.