Hope in Dark Times
December 22, 2020
From an early age, Clare was curious about faith-based communities. Clare comes from an interfaith family and got involved with Interfaith Youth Core’s Better Together Network her freshman year of college. It was because of working with a variety of religious and non-religious communities that she became more grounded in her faith and values. Her family’s story and two questions from her baptismal covenant became central to her Christian and interfaith activist identities. Clare currently serves as the Director of Children and Youth Ministry at a local PCUSA church in Overland Park, KS, and fully supports morning coffee becoming a holy sacrament.
Since June of this year, the church I work for and a current member has been operating a pop-up food pantry. This food pantry has brought so much hope to me and to the recipients of the food packages. Each week roughly 24-40 people lay hands on the food that will be given to folks in need. These folks range from store clerks at Sam’s club and Aldi, to the folks who make donations, to the parents and youth that pack the food packages each week, to the volunteers that load the food packages each week.
The pop-up food pantry has brought me a profound amount of hope because this year has not been easy for anyone. As my favorite theologian, Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” It is this type of hope that our pop-up food pantry has offered me and others. I see the goodness of people shining when they are donating food, packing food, and loading packs into cars. I see parents and their children building relationship and spending quality time together on Saturday mornings when they are putting together the food sacks, I see church congregants come to life when they volunteer at the distributions because they can speak to their friends that they haven’t seen in months because of stay-at-home orders and need for physical distancing, I see this in the faces of the recipients of the food packages knowing they do not have to go without and their children do not have to go without or guess where their next meal is coming from.
There are three moments of hope I want to point specifically to though.
1) I see hope in the church right now. In late summer, we as staff and lay leadership made the decision to redirect funds from a variety of programs so that we can continue operating the food distribution. While my children and youth budget was “slashed” by this effort, I do not regret it one bit, I would hand down make that decision again. I view this redirection as an opportunity to practice what we preach and not only that but get the youth involved in this process. They should be able to experience and be involved with a project that helps the community. Since making this decision, we have fed roughly 1,000 families.
2) The relationships that we have built. We have built stronger, better, and more wholesome relationships with each other and most importantly our community. We have seen multiple families come back every two weeks for food packages and because of that, we have gotten to know a little bit more about their lives and their children’s lives.
3) New and good opportunities. In the last few months, we have seen some of our regular folks stop coming to get food packages and mainly it’s because they have gotten new jobs or are able to return to work. This. Is. Huge! While we love seeing folks come back every two weeks and checking in with them, we are equally excited (if not more excited) that they have new opportunities ahead.
This to me is witnessing hope in dark times.