More of You and Less of Me

Photo of Matt Tate

My day usually begins with either attending Daily Mass at St. Daniel’s with a few other volunteers, or, if I’m really feeling inspired, with an early morning workout at Planet Fitness with Cristo. Upon returning home from these morning activities, I freshen up, pack up some work supplies, and gobble down some breakfast before my commute to the Catholic Charities Men’s Shelter. It’s only about a ten-minute drive, but I have definitely become accustomed to my morning car ride chats with Haley, and my favorite radio station blaring.

Arriving at the shelter each day, even after the first few months at FrancisCorps, sobers me up to a different reality. My comforts of home disappear and what remains behind is a saying that has stuck with me for years now: “Lord, More of You and Less of Me.” This is my challenge to strive for each day: to detach myself from my very human ego, and to lean into the needs of the clients I minister to.

These small actions of self-sacrifice can vary depending on the day. Typically, I finish serving breakfast, tidy the kitchen a little before lunch prep begins, and return to the staff office to check my emails and read the shift notes to catch up on any incidents or clientele changes from the previous day(s). Afterwards, I often assist staff in pulling up the cots that are left out, conduct intakes of new clients, wipe down tables and countertops in the kitchen, or chat with residents to see how they’re doing.

The lunch window is an important part of my routine at the shelter that has allowed me to meet the clients where they’re at. Depending on what donations have come in, or if our chef Jerome is working that day, we often either have an abundance of food to serve, or very little to provide. Those days can be some of the most challenging ones: when you want to help, but can’t due to external factors. I find that these occasions, rare as they may be, are ways God teaches me about patience and humility, and my own blessings. In hearing how limited we are in food, some clients are understanding, but others will let you know otherwise. “Lord, More of You and Less of Me.”

Beginning in January, I also have been assisting Chloe at the Intake Center downtown and the Eastside food pantry on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. It has been a blessing to witness Chloe’s compassionate ministry at her service site, and she has taught me to be a better listener and think more quickly on my feet in the event of a crisis situation.

After lunch at the shelter is when I typically have the most downtime which can mean more time for direct interaction with clients, sorting through incoming food or clothes donations, or any other tasks where my colleagues at the shelter need assistance. It is exciting to work in an environment that calls for flexibility – some days are very different depending on the need.

Arriving back home after a day at the shelter brings its own joys, but also challenges at times as well. If I’m not cooking dinner that evening, I either try to go for a workout or run, or go to Perpetual Adoration at St. Daniel’s chapel nearby. I have learned through the example of my fellow volunteers over the past eight months that self-care is necessary, particularly when working with marginalized communities. After a particularly stressful day, it can be hard to compartmentalize my work from personal life, and I can be tempted to overreact in the face of minor hardships or inconveniences at home. When I inevitably fail to forgive or communicate effectively, I know that I can rely on my community members to support and guide me, but also to share ways I can grow in generosity and service to others.

I imagine that in some sense, this is exactly what St. Francis set out to achieve years ago in the creation of his Franciscan community: a group of devoted disciples who were united both in their commitment to God’s ministry, but also to each other. After eight months, I can confirm that despite any trials that may arise in service or community, I can guarantee with certainty in finding more peace in relying on God instead of my own efforts. For this reason, I continue to pray: “Lord, More of You and Less of Me.”

Categories: General

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