Not a day goes by that I think… who can I help? Who is in most need? Where does God want to use me? Where are the poor? Usually, I don’t have to look far to find needs within my own family or circle of friends. I step up where and when I can, but more and more I have been hearing that small voice within… calling me to go beyond my own family to the greater world. I had that opportunity when Daniela Dalla Via requested volunteers for the Good Shepherd Apostolate in Hamilton at the Venture Center. It was a call of my time that required a simple “yes”. Isn’t that how our Lord always calls us? I was so glad I said “yes”.
The task was a humble one, to sort clothes, that’s it. Why is this task so important? Well, I knew the minute I pulled up to the center. It was 8:45am on Friday morning and there was already a line up, a multicultural mixture of people from mothers with small children, men and elderly but mainly families from what I could see. They were waiting, waiting for the doors to open, waiting to be helped, waiting to be clothed, waiting to be fed and waiting to be loved. They were relying on someone that day to provide for them and that day our Lord called us, the RC members who said “yes”. What an honor to serve our King.
I parked and walked to the side door where I was instructed to meet the others. I sheepishly entered, realizing that I was empty handed. Why didn’t I think to bring unused clothing, food or household items? Note to self… next time remember to come with something to give. It’s probably a good lesson in any circumstance. I was greeted by Br. Chris who guided me upstairs where I met another group of people and waited for the rest of our team to arrive. Br. Chris couldn’t have been more grateful for our help as he was worried there wouldn’t be any items on the shelves had we not volunteered that day. He gave us an overview of what they call the “Market Place” a name that invokes normality, dignity and community- something that should be emphasized especially for the poor.
The “Market Place” is a store like any other with food on the shelves, coolers with milk and meats, household items on display, bedding, clothing, shoes. All these item donated by individuals, parishes, stores. We were given a glimpse of the needs in this community by Br. Chris….they serve 110 clients a day (individuals or families up to 11) where they can shop for their needs and not worry about paying. They have to turn people away most days. These are the families and people living in poverty who rely on the Market Place to get by. I felt the real need of these people and wanted to work as hard as I could that day. As a group we accomplished a great deal that morning, sorting through the bags of clothes donated and making sure the clothes among other items were in good condition and appropriate for this time of year.
That afternoon the second RC group arrived and I joined in. The items we sorted in the morning were re-sorted and labeled, ready to go on the shelves by the end of the day. We all felt good and what a wonderful day! I left hearing the words echo from St. Francis of Assisi “For it is in giving that we receive”. I felt an eagerness to do more. I now knew the needs of the Good Shepherd and wanted to share with others who I thought would respond.
The following Monday I shared my experience with my manager at my place of work, who wanted me to set up a day for our office to go and volunteer. I emailed the Good Shepherd’s volunteer coordinator (Maggie) to arrange a time during the weekdays. The next day-Tuesday, she got back to me and advised of a special project that needed immediate attention- (sorting food). She was hoping for approximately 10-15 volunteers on the coming Saturday. I suggested I would reach out to my Regnum Christi Family and sent out an email.
Almost immediately, I had volunteers and Daniela responded “tell Maggie, yes! we will have the people for Saturday.” Sure enough by the grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit we ended up with 13 people, including Br. Luke. Among these 13 people were young men, whom were struck by the experience and are now, planning to volunteer again in the future. A woman, belonging to a Mother’s Group is taking the message and awareness to her church community, planning for a Christmas project in collecting houseware items which are in high demand for the center. See…The Lord picks the right people at the right time!
While we were all busy working together that Saturday one of the regular volunteers Debbie from the center commented, how such a large group of people could work in such order, unison, efficiency and peace, since usually it’s quite chaotic with so many people. Her question was:” Had we worked together before?” Daniela and I looked at each other and smiled.
Br. Luke ended our time together with a beautiful closing prayer “because, when we help the poor, we help You Lord, when we love the poor, we love You Lord!”
Let us all remember the “yes” of our Blessed Mother and respond the same way. Yes, We will Serve.