The Good Behind the Lows

John Riedel Blog 2

My day as a FrancisCorps volunteer starts around 6:30 am, when I get up to pray, eat breakfast, and ride with Olav, Miranda, and Olav’s coworker to our service sites. I arrive at work, Catholic Charities Emergency Services around 8 am. When I arrive at work, I check my email and then review my “bible”, aka my phone log, to see which clients I must call during the day. Funding dictates where much of my energy goes. Early in the service year, we had money to assist with back rent, so I would call clients to coordinate paperwork signing and acquisition of ID, proof of income, and rent demand letters. Now our program has no funding for back rent, so I spend more time catching up on missed calls and answering new ones. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings and Wednesday afternoons, I sometimes check people in at the food pantry window. Clients can come to the food pantry twice a month, and they have to recertify (provide photo ID and proof of residence for all adults in the household, and ID for all children in the household) once a year, so I often assist clients in the recertification process. Interspersed throughout any given day could be a food delivery to persons quarantined because of COVID, delivery of food and personal products to neighboring food pantries, pick-up of furniture donations, or giving clothes to our clients. I leave work around 4 pm, come home, take a walk, work out, or relax until supper, which is around 6:30 pm. After supper, we pray as a community, then I have about an hour of free time before my 10 pm bedtime. 

The highs of service are the responsibility I have and the feeling of contribution toward the good of another that I sometimes experience. As the initial point of contact with Emergency Services for 7+ clients each day, I feel the responsibility to know what our programs do or do not offer, and with that responsibility comes a certain amount of pride. However, with that responsibility often comes a high level of stress, which can be a low of service. Dealing with clients can often be a low of service, especially when clients are irate and our funding is low, which means that we might not be able to help them in the way that they want. Still, the times when I am able to assist clients with what they want or need are highs. The highs of community include the acceptance that one feels in a community that is willing to be vulnerable, and the peace and joy that that brings. It is great to know that you can trust the people you live with to care for you and work for what’s best for you. The lows of community are when it’s tough to be vulnerable, when we fail at it, mistakes are made and we have to deal with the consequences. However, I’ve been learning that the lows of service and community will inevitably happen, and that if you approach them the right way you can see the good behind them!

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