Armed only with worn leather gloves and buckets, nine new strangers waded through chest-high wild-grass behind the cloistered walls of the Sisters of Loretto tasked with destroying thistles invading hundreds of acres. With every handful of purple fluff the creases between each finger and thumb were stabbed by unsuspecting thorns puncturing into the flesh of our hands. Looking into the distance, the ocean of purple faded over the hill, and even as our buckets filled, our task seemed all the more impossible. Yet, we kept on picking, knowing that we might not eradicate them all, nonetheless our effort will make a subtle difference.
As we began our week, the horizon of purple thistles unfolded before us to seemingly no end, yet this task was merely an excuse to build relationships. In only a few short days, nine strangers with diverse ages and varying life stories, bonded over the impossible task of plucking thistles. As buckets overflowed, conversations poured over and boundaries withered away. As thorns were removed from fingertips, laughter overtook our lungs and for the briefest of moments joy made us forget the pain in our blood dripped fingertips. While thistles still remained in the field even after our week, we did not feel unaccomplished. We made a difference.
CrossRoads Ministry, in many ways, is like our efforts in the thistle patch. We are told that young people do not care about the poor, yet we continue to take young people to eat at soup kitchens and make friends. We are told that people who are homeless, refugees, and the developmentally disabled are lazy, unintelligent, and detriments to society, yet week after week we are surprised by the bonds of friendship that transcend socioeconomic labels unveiling our shared mask of humanity. This summer we will laugh over lunch conversations and dance our ways through the hearts of countless people, and for the briefest of moments we will forget that we are “different.”
Our goal this summer is not to change an entire community, for that, like the thistle patch would be impossible. But we will, one by one, build relationships filled with joy and laughter with each person we encounter. While changes will still need to be made remained in the greater community even after our summer, we will not feel unaccomplished. We will make a difference.