I knew the name of the event that I was headed to: The Open Door Community Christmas Dinner. Outside of that I was not sure what my role was. I assumed washing dishes or serving since this was a dinner and I was a volunteer. I walked into the Trinity Lutheran church, where this event took place, ready to do whatever job I was given.
But then I learned what my volunteer role actually entailed. And honestly, I was confused.
When I was told that I would help decorate a table and then be part of that table, eating and talking all night, lots of thoughts ran through my head. I am just eating dinner with the other guests? Should I not be serving the food?
I moved past the questions and went on to the tangible service that I understood. I helped Mrs. and Mr. Pajk as well as Katelyn set up place settings and decorate our table. After that was completed we were asked to invite the guests from the Open Door who were coming to the dinner to sit at our table.
Two couples that both included wheelchairs and one single man joined our table.
My mind raced to think of what to say. Where is the common ground to start conversation? What is the similarity between us? My words got caught in my throat as we waited for programming and dinner to start.
Mr. Pajk started with introductions and from there conversation awkwardly grew.
Programming for the evening began with a singing contest. I am someone who is much more comfortable in the background – so I cringed at this next activity which would place us at the center of attention. But the woman next to me started talking to the whole table – planning what our table was going to do. Encouraged by her enthusiasm I realized that my service might be leaving my comfort zone to participate in this activity.
At this moment I had to decide between love and security.
Security to stay in my space with the things I know – or – the love that would be accepting these new people and joining them in this activity.
I nervously chose love.
Once the 12 Days of Christmas singing contest got going our entire table was laughing together. Actually, the entire dining hall was laughing together.
Laughter is part of our humanity.
It brought us together.
It was everyone choosing love over security.
It was the realization that we are all just people – sharing a meal.
We had found our common ground.
Throughout the rest of the evening we ate incredible food and we talked about lots of things: families, accents, christmas traditions and decorations, cooking, and pet cats. It was just honest conversation between people. When the event wrapped up we took a table photo and said goodbye.
During the cleaning up of our table Katelyn and I commented on how that was not at all what we expected, we had both been very prepared to do dishes or serve food. But we both were filled with joy. We had both loved eating and talking with the guests.
See my service was not clearing dishes or serving food it was loving people.
My service was as simple and as complicated as loving people.
As I left and returned home I was very aware of how this “service of loving people” extended to my family. And to my friends. And to my teachers and peers. And to anyone who I interact with. Every interaction is a choice between love and security.
The hard choice that is the service of loving people – try that in 2019. Try that tomorrow. Try that today.
About the Author:
Hannah Baker is a senior at Dow High school and a member of Blessed Sacrament parish – where she is a Lector. She is a four year member of the Outreach team and a co-chair of the high school Youth-to-Youth retreat team. At Dow she is a section leader for the band and member of both the Student Council and National Honors Society. In the community she is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and part of the Midland County Youth Leadership Steering Team.