The Intermittent Volunteer’s Weblog

Befriending People in Dallas Who Are Homeless

Servant? Leader? Both. May 23, 2015

Filed under: Christianity,healing,Henri Nouwen,inspiration,Leadership,peace,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 8:52 pm

Saturday, May 23, 2015

 

Servant? Leader? Both.

“Ministry is… a mutual experience… [Jesus] wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as ‘professionals’ who know their clients’ problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved.

 

Somehow we have come to believe that good leadership requires a safe distance from those we are called to lead… Someone serves, someone else is being served, and be sure not to mix up the roles! But how can we lay down our life for those with whom we are not even allowed to enter into a deep personal relationship!

 

We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God.

 

Therefore, true ministry must be mutual. When the members of a community of faith cannot truly know and love their shepherd, shepherding quickly becomes a subtle way of exercising power over others and begins to show authoritarian and dictatorial traits. The world in which we live — a world of efficiency and control — has no models to offer to those who want to be shepherds in the way Jesus was a shepherd. Even the so-called ‘helping professions’ have been so thoroughly secularized that mutuality can only be seen as a weakness and a dangerous form of role confusion. The leadership about which Jesus speaks is of a radically different kind from the leadership offered by the world. It is a servant leadership — to use Robert Greenleaf’s* term — in which the leader is a vulnerable servant who needs the people as much as they need their leader.”

 

               ~~ Henri J.M. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership

 
*Robert K. Greenleaf, Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness

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Bear Witness September 3, 2013

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bear Witness

          “Bear witness to injustices that result in poor health, and work to remove those injustices and build health equity.  This is what healers owe society.  And this is what our society desperately needs at this moment in time.”

                                     ~~  Jessie M Gaeta, M.D.,  Medical Director of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program

                                                Commencement Address, Boston University School of Medicine Convocation, 2013

 

Common Cathedral February 13, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2012

 

Common Cathedral

 

I’ve just been invited by my daughter, her family, and a wonderful friend who is a nurse serving the homeless community in Boston to attend services at Common Cathedral one Sunday in the next few weeks.  Can’t wait!

 

http://ecclesia-ministries.org/common_cathedral.html

 

Being Led August 20, 2012

Filed under: Christianity,healing,inspiration,Leadership,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 2:54 am

From Henri Nouwen:

 

“Let me tell you about a[n] experience connected with my move from Harvard to L’Arche. It was clearly a move from leading to being led.  Somehow I had come to believe that growing older and more mature meant that I would be increasingly able to offer leadership. In fact, I had grown more self-confident over the years. I felt I knew something and had the ability to express it and be heard. In that sense I felt more and more in control.

 

But when I entered my community with mentally handicapped people and their assistants, all controls fell apart, and I came to realize that every hour, day, and month was full of surprises — often surprises I was least prepared for…. Often people responded from deep places in themselves, showing me that what I was saying or doing had little if anything to do with what they were living. Present feelings and emotions could no longer be held in check by beautiful words and convincing arguments…. Without realizing it, the people I came to live with made me aware of the extent to which my leadership was still a desire to control complex situations, confused emotions, and anxious minds.

 

It took me a long time to feel safe in this unpredictable climate, and I still have moments in which I clamp down and tell everyone to shut up, get in line, listen to me, and believe what I say. But I am also getting in touch with the mystery that leadership, for a large part, means to be led. I discover that I am learning many new things, not just about the pains and struggles of wounded people, but also about their unique gifts and graces. They teach me about joy and peace, love and care and prayer…. They also teach me what nobody else could have taught me, about grief and violence, fear and indifference. Most of all, they give me a glimpse of God’s first love, often at moments when I start feeling depressed and discouraged.

 

My movement from Harvard to L’Arche made me aware in a new way how much my own thinking about Christian leadership had been affected by the desire to be relevant, the desire for popularity, and the desire for power.  Too often I looked at being relevant, popular and powerful as ingredients of an effective ministry.

 

The truth, however, is that these are not vocations but temptations. Jesus asks, ‘Do you love me?’ Jesus sends us out to be shepherds, and Jesus promises a life in which we increasingly have to stretch out our hands and be led to places where we would rather not go. He asks us to move from a concern for relevance to a life of prayer, from worries about popularity to communal and mutual ministry, and from a leadership built on power to a leadership in which we critically discern where God is leading us and our people…  Old patterns that have proved quite effective are not easy to give up.

 

I leave you with the image of the leader with outstretched hands, who chooses a life of downward mobility.”

 

~~ From In the Name of Jesus, Reflections on Christian Leadership

 

Solitude May 15, 2012

Filed under: healing,inspiration,peace,The Natural World,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 11:36 pm

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Solitude

A little over a decade ago, I had the serendipitous good luck to find myself staying in a small village in France called Ermenonville after a wedding I attended in a nearby town.  At the time, I had no idea that the [very inexpensive but lovely] chateau hotel where I was lodging was the location where Jean Jacques Rousseau had, in 1778, spent the last months of his life.

 

 

I fell in love with the village, with the castle itself, and with Parc Jean Jacques Rousseau across the street from the chateau, where I went hiking many times.  On my hikes, I carried along a journal and a sketch pad, and stopped to write and to draw various sites in the parc.  I still can’t believe my good luck in spending a week in those lovely surroundings.

 

 

The odd thing is, on one of my hikes in the park, I was grappling with the question of my own at-times-competing needs for solitude and company, and I was able so resolve some of these vexing questions while in that extraordinary natural setting.

 

 

I had read Rousseau in school but remembered little about his writing, so when I came home I purchased a book or two of his, one of which is Reveries of the Solitary Walker.  Here is an interesting quote from the chapter entitled ‘Third Walk’ on the subject of solitude, a subject with which Rousseau grappled as well.

 

 

“It is from this time that I can date my total renunciation of the world and the great love of solitude which has never left me.  The task I had set myself could only be performed in absolute isolation;  it called for long and tranquil meditations which are impossible in the bustle of society life.  So I was obliged to adopt for a time another way of life, which I subsequently found so much to my taste that since then I have only interrupted it for brief periods and against my will, returning to it most gladly and following it without effort as soon as I was able;  and when men later reduced me to a life of solitude, I found that in isolating me to make me miserable, they had done more for my happiness than I had been able to do myself.”

~~ Jean Jacques Rousseau, Reveries of a Solitary Walker, “Third Walk”

 

Parc Jean Jacques Rousseau

http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/ermenonville_parc_jean-jacques_rousseau

 

To Tech or Not To Tech? March 17, 2012

Filed under: inspiration,no technosavvywhatsoever,peace,The Natural World,Vocation — Karen Shafer @ 9:10 pm

Saturday, March 17, 2012

 

To Tech or Not To Tech?  There’s a Different Answer for Everyone

Friends sometimes ask me, ‘Why aren’t you on Facebook???  How do you keep up?’  I realize we are coming from different perspectives and that it may be hard to explain.

 

I want less internet, not more.  I see the online world as an invaluable tool but also as a kind of necessary evil.  It seems to me that it can be addicting, yet that it is somehow inherently unrewarding.  Maybe I’m looking for some sort of response there that I never get.  Could the response I’m missing be the three-dimentional experience, either from human beings or from the natural world?  (Or, if you’re a particle physics fan who’s interested in String Theory, that would be more dimensions than three!)

 

Another way of saying it:  ‘I want to smell the actual-not-the-virtual flowers and to pull the three-dimensional weeds.’

 

I want to sit and stare.  At the trees, the sky, the birds and butterflies (and at  this time of year, the shower of pollen!)  Not at a computer screen or a handheld device.  It’s taken me so long to start to learn to ‘be here now.’  I hate to voluntarily give it up any more than is absolutely necessary.  My ‘lights’ will flicker and dim soon enough.

 

As a news junkie, I prefer to get my info from the BBC World Service on radio, the television evening news, and PBS Newshour.  As it is, I think often enough of, for example, of what’s going on in Syria, that I have a friend who lives in Damascus — and that I have no way to know if he and his family are OK.  I don’t really want my newsfeed to be more frequent than that it already is.

 

It may seem disingenuous to say this, given that this blog is on the internet.  The worldwide web has it’s uses, without a doubt.  An extremely positive one is spreading the word about certain crises in the world that need our attention and care.  I just somehow feel that sharing and caring about what time of day a celebrity ate a piece of pizza is definitely TMI.

 

I even think that it’s probably harmful to the human brain to experience the world increasingly through ‘screens’.  I recently learned of a study which found that electronic devices are addicting to the brains of children.  But am I a retro freak who’s behind the times and way out of touch?

 

Along comes an interview with writer Paul Theroux to save my reputation (the word ‘reputation’ is hyperbolic in relation to myself, but please indulge me)!

 

The Atlantic Monthly:  What does the advent of the e-reader mean for reading — for the health of narrative storytelling as a form, for the market for fiction, for the future of books?  E-readers certainly make it easier to tote lots of novels and other texts while traveling.  But don’t we lose something — in sustained concentration, or in a sense of permanence, or in the notion of a book as an art object — in the migration away from the codex?

 

Paul Theroux:  Movable type seemed magical to the monks who were illuminating manuscripts and copying texts.  Certainly e-books seem magical to me.  I started my writing life in the 1940’s as an elementary student at the Washington School in Medford, Massachusetts, using a steel-nibbed pen and an inkwell, so I have lived through every technology.  I don’t think people will read more fiction than they have in the past (as I say, it’s a minority interest), but something certainly is lost — the physicality of a book, how one makes a book one’s own by reading it (scribbling in it, dog-earing pages, spilling coffee on it) and living with it as an object, sometimes a talisman.  Writing is one of the plastic arts, which is why I still write in longhand for a first draft.  I can’t predict how reading habits will change.  But I will say that the greatest loss is the paper archive — no more a great stack of manuscripts, letters, and notebooks from a writer’s life, but only a tiny pile of disks, little plastic cookies where once were calligraphic marvels.

 

TA:  Does the migration to e-readers increase access to good stories or diminish it?

 

PT:  Greatly increases access.  I could not be more approving.  But free libraries are full of books that no one reads.

 

TA:  What has the Twitter-ization of our attention spans, and the hyperlinking of our storytelling, and the Google-ization of all our knowledge meant for imaginative literature as an art form and a vehicle for transmitting ideas?

 

PT:  In a hyperactive world, the writing of fiction — and perhaps the reading of it — must seem slow, dull, even pedestrian and oldfangled.  I think there is only one way to write fiction — alone, in a room, without interruption or any distraction.  Have I just described the average younger person’s room?  I don’t think so.  But the average younger person is multitasking.  The rare, unusual, solitary younger person is writing a poem or story.

 

Crawling into bed and picking up my hard-bound copy of Henry James’ The Golden Bowl is the most peaceful and satisfying part of my day.  I feel like he’s my ‘friend,’ even though neither of us has a Facebook page, or, if he does, I’m pretty certain he’s not the one who put it up!

 

KS

 

Small Things With Great Love December 19, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

 

Small Things With Great Love

 

My son-in-law sent me this story today.  What these two people are doing is not small, but the love they express — each in her or his own way — is great indeed.  It reminds me, despite the difficulties in the world, that there are people out there quietly doing wonderful things every day.  KS

 

 

 

 

Austrian chef, Catholic nun are spirit behind Trinity Cafe

Monday, December 19, 2011 01:16:00 AM

Dec. 19–TAMPA — Alfred Astl frets a lot.

And with good reason: He’s the chef at Trinity Cafe, a restaurant that serves the homeless and working poor in downtown Tampa. He operates on a razor-thin budget, stretching pennies instead of dollars, in order to feed the growing throng of hungry people who come for a free noontime meal Monday through Friday.

“He always thinks he’s going to run out, which he never does,” confides Sister Maureen Dorr, the 81-year-old Franciscan nun who stopped in to volunteer 10 years ago and never left.

“I tell him not to worry. I happen to know another man who multiplied. He really had a way with loaves and fishes, and so does Alfred.”

That’s how it is with the Austrian chef with the serious demeanor and the fun-spirited Catholic sister who’s a bit of a flirt. They are the yin and yang of Trinity Cafe. He does the nourishing — creating innovative and well-balanced meals from soup to dessert at about $2 a serving. She does the nurturing — walking among the homeless guests to dispense hugs, give counsel and offer prayers.

“Sister Maureen is an angel on earth. And Chef Alfred is a grizzly with the heart of a teddy bear,” says Cindy Davis, program director. “They are the heart and soul of the cafe. To have them working here together is a real blessing for us and every guest who works through the door.”

Neither seeks out attention. But they got it anyway last month.

Sister Maureen was named a local hero by Bank of America, which came with a $5,000 check. Astl, 61, was chosen as a community hero by the Tampa Bay Lightning — an honor that came with a $50,000 award. Both directed their winnings to the cafe’s food account.

Davis says the windfall came at a time when the nonprofit needs it the most.

The cafe’s $455,000 annual budget — which depends on donations and grants — is being challenged by an increase in the number of people it serves. The limit was supposed to be 200 meals a day; that’s jumped to about 230. And looming in the future is a $650,000 project that will allow the cafe to relocate from its current cramped quarters at the Salvation Army to its own permanent building in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood.

When the cafe eventually moves, it will be open seven days a week. And it will keep that same “dining with dignity” tradition, using volunteers from churches and community organizations to serve patrons at tables covered in white cloths and set with silverware.

That’s a touch Astl insists upon.

Before coming to Trinity Cafe, he spent 35 years in the hotel and food industry, honing his skills as a chef in exclusive settings from Aspen to New York. He worked at a Four Seasons, country clubs, high-end inns and corporations. He owned his own continental restaurant in Tampa with wife, Sandy. He worked for the late George Steinbrenner’s Yankee Trader at Bay Harbor Inn. For four years, he served as division chef for five Rusty Pelican restaurants.

But for all the prestige and money that came with his career, Astl got burned out. He missed out on seeing his two sons grow up. Working six or seven days a week, sometimes 18 hours a day, took a toll on his health.

Then he saw the help wanted ad for a chef to work “five days a week, lunch only.” He thought it would be a nice break for a little while. That was 10 years ago.

Obviously, there are differences. He doesn’t deal in ahi tuna or Kobe beef anymore. He haggles with food proprietors on the cost of odd-shaped chicken breasts. $1.34 a pound? I’ll give you 60 cents.

Good quality food is a must, he says, “but I have to get it cheap.” And nothing is wasted. Today’s leftover braised corn is tomorrow’s corn chowder. Every meal starts with salad or soup, a healthy portion of protein, a starch, a vegetable, a dessert and a piece of fruit. That same gourmet style he developed when working in exclusive restaurants is reflected here.

“I approach this the same way I did everything else — I come in and do the best with what I have,” Astl says. “Only I know this is the only meal of the day for these guests.”

While the chef is working his magic in the kitchen, Sister Maureen is making the rounds in the waiting lines and at the tables. Some of the faces are familiar; once a week, she’s at the jail, counseling and ministering to those who ran afoul of the law. She has a special fondness for the men, and often offers herself as a dance partner in the middle of the dining room.

“Stay with God,” she whispers to a bearded man, sitting forlornly against the fence while waiting for the cafe to open. “He won’t abandon you. Don’t give up. He’s here.”

For 40 years, Sister Maureen worked in education as a teacher and administrator. She says this is just another extension of what she has done since entering religious life at age 17.

“St. Francis taught us about living out the gospel and serving the poor,” she says. “But truth is, I don’t minister to them. I minister with them. I firmly believe there are such good people who have had bad opportunities. They show me the way to God as much as I try to show them.”

She acknowledges her advanced age, but quickly dismisses any notion of retirement. “Nuns don’t retire,” she says with a laugh. “We just get recycled. As long as God gives you the health, you keep on moving.”

Yes, Astl and Sister Maureen admit, their personalities are different. He’s all business, quite serious about the balance between pinching pennies and providing a substantive meal. She’s quick to crack jokes and wrap her arms around a lost soul who needs a human’s touch. Both agree that those differences don’t matter. The bond they share — their compassion for the poor — trumps everything.

“She is marvelous,” Astl says with admiration. “Just marvelous how she connects with everyone.”

“And he is a God-centered man,” Sister Maureen says. “Though he doesn’t think he is, I know it’s true.”