There are probably 6 dozen things I want to write about the students who just visited Chile for their service immersion trip. I will focus on one, for now. Yesterday, we had the honor to go to San Roque parish in Peñalolen, Santiago, to help prepare meals for homebound individuals and deliver them all over the neighborhood.
Our actual volunteer work was minimal, which is what I expected. They run this program twice a week without our help. They didn’t technically need us there. I wanted our students to see the power of a few people in a poor parish making a huge difference in the lives of others who are in need.
We did light work preparing the lunches for delivery. Students walked into a few homes to meet people receiving the lunches to see how they lived and to offer a smile. I think the students got the message.
But then the most amazing thing happened. We returned to the parish and the regular kitchen volunteers had made enough food for all uf us to have lunch together.
The “North American Me” said thank you, but we brought bagged lunches. We don’t want to take food or money from your program. Use it for the people you serve each week. Then my “Chilean Me” said to N.A. Me, “Shut up and accept their hospitality. It’s about the relationship, not the dollars and cents.” And, as I’m learning more than I care to admit, “Chilean Me” was right again.
cents.” And, as’m learning more than I care to admit, “Chilean Me” was right again.
We sat with the parish volunteers, staff, and assistant pastor (who is basically a world renowned theologian!) and ate a delicious meal prepared with love. We thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and, of course, the food was amazing.
What is it about us that sometimes makes our first response to the invitation, “No, thank you”? If I had insisted on leaving, we would have missed one of the most memorable experiences of those students’ trip to Chile. True Chilean hospitality, and the best example of kinship (thank you for that word, Fr. Greg Boyle!) that we encountered during their time in Chile. At that table, we were parishioners, brothers and sisters.