It’s Saint Vincent de Paul Thanksgiving and Christmas basket season again. And this year I am thankful to no longer be in charge of this satisfying but overwhelming project in which we provide holiday meals and presents for fifty or sixty or ninety (!) needy families in the area.
I have written many a blog post about this project (see this one or this one for more history), usually in a haze of exhaustion (leading up to the events) mixed with euphoria (after the successful conclusion of same). But it was time for me to step back and lighten my load. Oh, I’m still involved, don’t get me wrong—but I officially handed the reins over to my capable apprentice Jean, and she kicked some serious ass on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Things are in good hands.
On delivery day I noticed how much my perspective had changed. I was relaxed. I wasn’t worried too much about the big picture. My eye wasn’t on the clock or the delivery list. I wasn’t anticipating and solving problems. Mostly, I bagged fruits and vegetables. And as I did, I thought about the families that would eat them. I hoped they knew what to do with squash and yams, and I hoped they liked pears a lot.
I had time to take a break mid-morning and wander outside, where a group of tiny cub scouts in uniform helped unload the food donations as sponsors drove up. They took their duties seriously, and swarmed around each new box of food like industrious ants. Between cars, they gathered in a group listening to the one boy who had already earned his coveted pocket knife as he explained the rules of knife safety. Then they knocked each other’s caps off and ran around like monkeys.
There were so many willing hands—lifting, carrying, sorting. Before long everything was ready and the deliveries started going out.
When it was time to deliver the excess produce to the Carmelite monastery nearby, I asked if I could ride along. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas I have wanted to take the vegetables to the cloistered nuns at the monastery, but I always had to stay put and coordinate the deliveries. This year I got to go along. We could go no further than the vestibule of the monastery, beyond which the nuns live in seclusion. We were met by one sister, who nodded and smiled at us as we loaded boxes of produce onto wheeled carts for her to take back into the monastery kitchen.
Even in that brief time in the vestibule, I felt the quiet and peace of the monastery–mostly unseen, but nonetheless exuding a sense of calm that seemed to rub off on me just a bit and I was thankful.