People often ask me, “Why would you work for CrossRoads for the summer and not just spend your days relaxing in the sun?” The short answer, “I need this…”
The individuals who work at CrossRoads have a lived sense of Catholicism. Through sharing meals at open-hand kitchens, drug and alcohol rehabilitation clinics, Catholic Worker houses, and building relationships with the men and women staring across the table we extend our web to new corners. By playing with children, struggling to understand language differences, and becoming friends with unlikely pairs we begin to see the world with limitless perspectives. With each new day as a retreat companion we grow in mutual love and respect with our retreatants, community partners, and neighbors.
So again, “Why am I spending my summer at CrossRoads?” The long answer, “I needed to know that mutual love and companionship.”
Love has a powerful quality that changes everything it encounters. It makes the weak, powerful and the mighty, frail. Love makes no judgements on who it ensnares, its web knows no limits. It can find you huddled in the laughter of a child or staring across a table as you enjoy a meal. As a relationship builds the reach of love’s intimate power echo through the halls of your heart. With each new hollowed chamber love unlocks the potential for shared struggles and pain with your companion; their pains become your pain, their joy is your joy.
This capacity for love comes at a risk. A risk that stands in the face of our social conditioning as it requires us to be vulnerable. When we expand our capacity to love we begin to feel with the people we are companioning—we laugh with their joys and cry with their sorrows. Moreover, this capacity of love changes you. After sitting with an individual who is hungry, I can no longer simply throw-away food without thinking twice. After getting to know people who are experiencing homelessness, I can no longer assume that homeless people are lazy. After listening to the stories of refugees, I can no longer make the sweeping generalization that all immigrants are “taking our jobs” or wonder, “Why don’t they speak English, dammit?!”
This transformative love is the type of love that we are all called to experience. A love that opens doors.
The challenging component of this love is that it also draws us towards loving those with whom we disagree. If I can love a homeless person, a drug addict, and a convicted criminal then shouldn’t I be able to love even those who have different opinions? A love that opens doors is a love that calls me to love the democrat along with the republican, the conservative and the liberal, the theist and the atheist, the nicest and the meanest among us.
When I imagine the Body of Christ, the Communion of Saints, and the ever expansive forgiving love of God, then it is this love that I imagine. A very strange assortment of people gathering together to become unlikely friends.
So again, “Why am I spending my summer at CrossRoads?” The longer answer, “I needed to encounter the Body Humanity of Christ.”
Just as love can creep into even the most unlikely of circumstances, love then can also compel us to forgiveness. From minor insults to major infractions, this love shifts our reality. As we see a car barreling through traffic at high speeds, this love reduces our sentiment from, “I wish that idiot gets arrested,” to “I hope that individual arrives calmly and safely at their destination without hurting someone.” Sitting at work on a Monday morning, this love stirs our hearts as we read a challenging email, from “Who the hell does that person think he is?”, to “I wonder how we can both grow in this exchange?” Reflected in the ever judging bathroom mirror this love steadies our minds from, “Look at how fat you’ve become!”, to “Look at how beautiful you are.”
By experiencing the Body and Humanity of Christ, I have come to realize that through the struggle to love “the other” I have slowly become to love “the self.” As I fall in love with the children I meet, I slowly begin to fall more in love with the childlike mistakes I have made in my past. As I become friends with individuals experiencing homelessness, I come to know more fully how to realize the friends present to me in those moments in my life when I have felt hopeless, abandoned, and alone. As I discover connections between unlikely pairs, I have come to accept those moments when I have cheated and failed to discover a better choice. By experiencing the Body and Humanity of Christ, I have come to experience the Divinity of God that is integrated through our broken and shared existence.
So finally, “Why would I work for CrossRoads for the summer and not just spend my days relaxing in the sun?” The most honest answer, “I need this… love.”
“Come to the Crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths where the good way lies;
walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
~ Jeremiah 6:16