During our year at the Sycamore House, in addition to our jobs, weekly group service projects, and community dinners, we also commit to one aspect of community life at St. Stephen’s Cathedral. For several of us in the house this year, that commitment to St. Stephen’s happens on Wednesday evenings during a children’s program called Wonderful Wednesdays.
Wonderful Wednesdays are unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced, and the best way I can describe what happens during this program is to call it “holy chaos.”
The program has been growing throughout the year, and we’re now up to about 25 kids from Kindergarten through 5th grade who join us every week! What started last school year as a program that brought kids from the Cathedral and school communities (there’s a pre-K through 8th grade private day school at St. Stephen’s) has grown to one that now includes those children’s friends from other schools and churches, as well as others kids from all over the Harrisburg community. It’s pretty incredible to see the relationships they form by coming week after week: kids from different racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds come together to eat dinner, sing in the children’s choir, hear Bible stories, and play together.
There are many differences between them, but the thing they all have in common is this: they’ve all spent the whole day sitting in a desk at school. Most of them even come straight to us from after school care. They’ve been in a structured environment all day, and so by the time they get to Wonderful Wednesday… well, they’re tired of rules and structure, and things can get a little bit wild, to say the least!
Wednesday nights are never perfect, and there are usually some frustrations and broken rules, and often some tears and hurt feelings (followed by apologies). I’ve never come away from the night without being completely exhausted. But I’ve also never come away without sharing many laughs, smiles, and hugs with the kids and the other volunteers. Love, joy, grace, forgiveness—all of these things abound at Wonderful Wednesdays! On the more exhausting nights, when we spend more time than usual chasing around rogue 2nd graders, or when we spend more time getting settled for story time than it takes to actually tell the story, my housemates and I joke about whether or not “wonderful” is really such an appropriate word for what happens there. But it is the patience and the love that makes this program such a favorite among the kids and, truthfully, among the volunteers as well. In this way, Wonderful Wednesdays are a consistently humbling experience for me. The nights never go perfectly according to plan, and no matter what creative behavior management tactics we employ, they never will. But perfection really isn’t the goal of Wonderful Wednesdays, or of anything we do this year. The goal is to show the love of God to the people we have promised to serve—and attempting to show that perfect love is as close to perfection as we can get. And if we’re measuring the success of our program in love, then the holy chaos we call Wonderful Wednesdays are truly wonderful indeed!
For a taste of what Wonderful Wednesdays are like, watch the video of the children’s choir below :]