ABCCM Crisis Ministry at 24 Cumberland Avenue is a unique and spirited place. I had the opportunity to volunteer there this week and had an inspiring experience. The moment I arrived, I stepped into a kind of happy chaos. I was welcomed with enthusiasm and warmth and assigned to the kitchen, as that was where the need was most immediate that day.
There were many guests who came through the line and took notice of my newness, and their gracious, welcoming smiles helped make the whole experience deeply meaningful. I felt like I was part of an established community that regularly converges to enjoy a sense of fellowship and fun. It allowed me to transcend my own particular worries and preoccupations that day – my small world with its concerns – and enter into a larger space.
Providing hearty meals to people in need is a type of service work that dates back centuries and is still widely performed, in part because the benefits are so immediate. In this area of ABCCM, though, not only is the basic need for sustenance amply met, but also the need for belonging, sharing and companionship. I appreciate the physical action of preparing and serving someone a plate of hot food; it felt like a very kind act yet it was so simple.
But, the highlight of my day was spending the afternoon with some of my neighbors who call the streets and shelters of our beloved downtown Asheville home. I thoroughly enjoyed the interesting guests we had that day. They were appreciative, intelligent, and fun, with a couple of them even breaking out into a few bars of a song. This greatly lifted the energy of the room for everyone.
One valuable lesson of volunteer service for me has to do with time management and perception
of time. Often, we so are busy that we feel as if there is no time to accomplish the myriad of tasks before us. Because of this, there is no room in our daily schedules for one more undertaking. But, if that one undertaking involves volunteering for an afternoon, it changes one’s perspective. While serving at ABCCM I realized that not only did I have the time, but the time I spent providing the service took on such value that it transformed the time I later spent on other activities.
B. Kirsten Walz