Last Friday we went to St. Vincent de Paul to help serve the homeless. I was amazed by how large the St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix is. They serve dinners to countless poor families every night. They serve numerous homeless people every day. People on the streets of Phoenix can come to St. Vincent de Paul every day to take a shower, and they are provided with the needed supplies, such as shampoo, razors, etc. In addition, they can get clothing items. For each item, there is a certain cycle that specifies how often people can get a new shirt, pants, shoes, etc. I was very amazed by how much they are able to provide. There are also several other ways in which St. Vincent de Paul ministers to the community; that is only a small glimpse.
I think that one part of my day at St. Vincent de Paul stood out the most. We were talking to this one volunteer, who was telling us all about the organization. The volunteers there are mostly retired people who give their time, people who have been coming for years. They are very passionate about the organization and what they do. From my understanding, they occasionally get groups that come in to help, but for the most part, the same group of volunteers is always there. The gentleman was telling us all about Thanksgiving and how many people they would feed. He was then telling us that tons of volunteers come after the meal is served to help decorate for Christmas. We asked if they had a hard time getting volunteers, and he told us that they get a lot of people to help serve the food. Most of the people who want to volunteer only want to be front and center, serving the food. He said it is harder to find people to help clean, to help decorate, and to help behind the scenes. But overall, they had tons of people to volunteer. In fact, they had to turn people away. We found that surprising, and my initial reaction was very impressed by the willingness of so many people to serve. He then proceeded to say that they always get tons of volunteers on Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was somewhat funny how he shared his opinion with us, because he was obviously bitter. So he continued on to say, “People think that people are only homeless and go without food on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The only time people ever think to serve and help others is at the holidays. There are 363 other days every year that people go without food. There are 363 days a year that we need volunteers, but no one thinks about it any other time of the year.” He said it with such conviction, like he wanted to go preach to the entire world. And while he spoke with some bitterness and harsh judgment, I think there is probably a lot of truth to what he said. In fact, I heard a couple volunteers say something very similar about people only volunteering on those two holidays. His comments really made me think.
I have always thought that when I have a family it would be so nice to instill a tradition of serving on the holidays. I have always thought it would be nice to serve on Thanksgiving. And while I don’t want to discount the importance of serving the poor on Thanksgiving, I realized that there needs to be more. To really instill a heart of serving, it should be something I do on a continual basis. It just really motivated me to look at serving in a new way. We always talk about the “holiday spirit” and giving to others in those times. The truth is that our holiday spirit of loving and giving should be an attitude that we have every single day.