A Reflection on Our Visit to The Well
In January, a few of us from the Fernanda Guild had the opportunity to take dinner to the women at The Well, a shelter at Christ’s Presbyterian Church for women experiencing homelessness. Nancy Massey generously offered her home as a place for food preparation and from there we delivered the dinner to the women at The Well.
While reflecting on our visit, one thing keeps being made abundantly clear. We did not do anything extraordinary that night. The lives of the women we met were not changed forever for our being there. This seems a good thing to recognize. What happened at the Well that evening was something extraordinarily ordinary. Women cooking, eating with other women, and passing the time in the most ordinary of ways. We learned some of their names and told them ours; spoke of our pasts, favorite movies; favorite foods; found common ground; and spent a couple of hours engaged in what can only be described as an average evening. Somehow, that is deeply important. Part of the human project involves showing up over and over to be present for the ordinary, the ordinariness of one another. Our otherness becomes less and less opaque as we engage with what is ordinary about ourselves and about those we do not yet know.
For the mundane is where we find our God, the source of all transparency and healthy intimacy. In the smile of the person on the street who had no reason to smile at you. In the laughter of a child who can see the world with fresh eyes. In the smell of a kitchen full of women scrambling to prepare fish tacos. And, in the conversations had between new friends, leveling with one another, entering into one another’s realities. It might be cliché to say something like “we were the ones who were blessed that night,” but things become cliché for a reason. I believe we were all the ones who were blessed that night. It was clear that Christ was with us the whole time, as he always is in our day to day mundanity. My father has always told me that we live most of our lives in the ordinary such that to impatiently seek moments of intensity and high excitement is to seek something other than the human experience. This is profoundly true, I believe.
After all, what is more mundane than bread and wine or more ordinary than a shared meal? This is what we do week after week and day after day: we share in the meal of salvation at the altar and live in a world that is sacramental at its core, where even that which is the most ordinary is charged and overflowing with the presence of our God.
This is what I keep coming back to when reflecting on our time spent at The Well. It was not so much about what we could give to the women we met, though assuredly that was a good thing (and one we should do again and again). Rather, it was about showing up and being present to the reality of the women, just as the women we encountered showed up to the reality of us as women too.
- Madeleine Harris