Amy VanScoter (Community Development and Communications Coordinator), reflects on her first weeks as a new staff member.
About two weeks before Christmas, I started working for Emmaus Ministries. The more I reflect on this first month and try to find the words to describe my impressions so far, the more challenging it feels. Some things can only be felt within the heart. Perhaps that’s why I find myself getting teary-eyed more than ever these days. I’ve been assured I fit right in. And as I settle into my new role and feel more and more at home, I find the space to be inspired, to contemplate, to rediscover my voice, and to be moved to take rightful actions. I imagine that our guests may feel that way too. Because beyond touching the heart, being in a place where you feel seen, respected, supported, and cared for is universal.
One of the first families that I met in the family room at the soup kitchen included a girl who has the same name as my closest friend who moved out of town a few years ago. When I met her I asked, “Are you going to be my new best friend?” She gave me the biggest smile, nodded and gave me a big hug. Thinking of her family and others who are cold or hungry, breaks my heart, yet she is the happiest little girl. I stepped back and watched as the Sisters and Volunteers took care of this family as if it were there own, not only serving their meals but remembering how they liked their coffee, giving hugs, and asking about their day. I think about how coming into the soup kitchen for a meal is providing a most basic human need that everyone has a right to. I also recognize they are receiving care and humanity in a world that often seems lacking. In a country where one unexpected medical bill or lay off could create food insecurity, they are welcomed at Emmaus by people who are listening to understand, genuinely care, and want to see them thrive. I saw so many conversations of Sisters and Volunteers helping to connect guests with the resources that can help them improve their situations.
Over and over I was witnessing the mission in action, bread for the body, care for the soul. I think about this family often and wonder if perhaps the little girl having the same name as someone I love was meant to be a sign of our interconnectedness and how close we all really are.
We have so many privileges and yet are so far removed from one another in our modern society. How many people have dinner alone scrolling on their phones or grabbing food from the drive through while everyone in the family is being rushed here and there? How many of us just pass the hungry on the street without looking in their eyes when they clearly need help. There is something that feels nostalgic to me about being at Emmaus and seeing the fellowship that comes from a group of people cooking, serving a meal, and sitting down to eat and have conversation. The Sisters and Volunteers seem to know most everyone who comes through the doors and if they don’t, they will by the end of the meal.
During the past month, I’ve served guests at the soup kitchen with [some of] the women who started it all, handed out blankets and socks to those who truly appreciate them, decorated Christmas cookies and shopped for Christmas presents with children at Sister Gus’s Kids Cafe, and had both heart-warming and difficult conversations. I’ve already met many truly amazing and inspiring women who are making a real difference in our community.
To say that my life has changed for the better during this short time would be an understatement. I have been a deeply spiritual person my whole life but, I have learned that putting faith into action is something entirely different and just taking first steps makes a big difference in the lives of others. In a world that often feels like it’s lost its humanity, working at Emmaus is breaking my heart open and ensuring that I remember mine and for that, I am truly grateful.
Photo: Amy VanScoter with Benedictine Sister and author, Joan Chittister, OSB at the Emmaus offices