One of the many perks to being the Program Director of the Sycamore House is that I get to work both inside and outside of the church. Since all our Corps Members are placed in organizations within the city, part of my job involves getting to know people at our different work sites. Admittedly, “getting to know” people at the different sites often means sending multiple emails back and forth until you and a Corps Member’s site supervisor can land on a time to meet that is several months away. But, it is definitely worth it!
Meetings with our site supervisors rarely take place in an office. Visits to the Joshua Group often involve a trip to the classrooms where Gabe is being pulled along by several three-year-old children. Visits to Paxton Ministries always involves lunch in the dining hall, where the entire staff (including the executive director) and the residents all gather to share a meal every day. At Capital Area Head Start, I know that Katie’s supervisor and I will get side-tracked in a million different ways as we discuss education challenges in the city. There’s never a tidy border between our meeting and the other activities of the organization.
Though I often chalk this up to “that’s just the nature of community work,” I think it’s a little deeper than that. I think our site supervisors are a little nuts. They work well over 40 hours a week, they can’t possibly get enough sleep (I often receive 2am email responses) and the boundaries between their personal and professional lives seem entirely too porous. Maybe “nuts” isn’t the word– maybe it’s committed and passionate. But, still a little crazy right?
This past Sunday, Jodie Smiley, the executive director of Paxton Ministries visited our church and spoke about her work at Paxton Ministries. As she told us about the residents at Paxton, her eyes lit up as she brought us into her world. It’s clear that she is dedicated to what she does– so dedicated that she gave up her Sunday morning to talk to us about it!
Obviously, individuals tend to commit to something that they believe in. That’s certainly true for our community partners. But, I think they believe in their causes because they see something the rest of us don’t always see. Throughout Scripture, there are references to “holy fools” — the ones who don’t operate quite like the rest of us. The ones who dare to imagine new life in places of despair and hopelessness, the ones who see abundance while the rest see scarcity. The ones who proclaim resurrection in the face of crucifixion. And to the rest of the world, these people look crazy. There’s Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who is dismissed by the priest at the temple because he thinks she is drunkenly rambling. (Spoiler alert: She’s saying this gorgeous prayer). There’s the prophets (who mostly proclaim hopelessness and despair when others see only hopefulness and prosperity). There’s Jesus, of course, who is always creating an upside down world through his words and stories. There’s his disciples, many of whom physically gave their lives to the firm conviction that Christ was crucified and rose again.
And even now, there are people all over the world that dare to live their lives devoted to causes that many of us deem foolish or futile. Of course, not all of our community partners are faith-based, but that doesn’t make them any less holy. There are plenty of holy fools out there today and I am lucky enough to work with a few of them. Thankfully, our Corps Members are catching just a bit of their foolishness too.