A Guest Post by Ken (a.k.a. “the Robot”)
I love working with college students. They are enthusiastic, hardworking and deeply spiritual, but they don’t always follow directions so well.
We were volunteering at the Rescue Mission a few weeks ago and I had to give some of the new volunteers some instruction. The Rescue Mission is a large facility that provides food and shelter for hundreds of homeless men each and every day. The Mission never takes a day off. Never takes a meal off. Not one. 365 days a year. But with that demand comes pressure. Pressure to be efficient and consistent. It’s imperative that volunteers understand their role and learn their responsibilities quickly. No one wants to be the one who holds up the line and keeps hundreds of hungry men waiting for their meal.
This particular night we had a number of new volunteers that I needed to get up to speed. I explained how we would be responsible for wiping down the tables and returning trays to the kitchen after the guests were finished with their meal. It was fairly straight forward and I had explained the process to numerous students before. So despite several uneasy faces, I felt confident that the team would follow instructions and we would have a smooth evening.
Boy, was I mistaken.
Almost immediately, the plan fell by the wayside. Before I knew what was happening, my well prepped students were wandering off on their own. They weren’t wiping down tables. They weren’t returning trays. Instead, they helped themselves to the tables and chairs.
They just sat down and started striking up conversations. Not with each other, but with the homeless men who had come in for the evening meal.
“What’s your name?”
“How was your day?”
I had never seen this before. They weren’t busy doing anything. They were just… being hospitable. They were striking up meaningful conversation with total strangers. And strangers who were different from them in so many ways. Yet they found common ground.
The students who had never been to the Rescue Mission before were able to make these homeless men feel right at… home.
I wasn’t sure what to do. It kinda reminded me of the story of Mary and Martha when Jesus came to visit. I was acting like Martha, the mean sister. Not only were these students playing the part of Mary who realized what was really important, but they also recognized who was playing the part of Jesus in this meal.
Those college students may not have been following my instructions that night, but clearly the message of Jesus had gotten through to them. They understood Jesus when he said “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” They realized that he was talking about a night just like this one. And they wanted Jesus to feel right at home.