People often ask what we do at the Columbus Catholic Worker. In particular, volunteers and new live-in community members can walk around a big, empty house and wonder what all the fuss is about. People may not know how to plug in.
At the risk of coming across as self-indulgent, I decided to document my activities this Monday morning to give a snapshot of what life is like at 1614. This is not a comprehensive list, as other community members are doing other projects as well, but it is just a little slice of what one person is doing on one morning.
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The day begins with morning prayer at 6 am. This is no small feat for a night owl like me, but things seem to fall apart when we aren’t praying consistently, and 6 am is the only time when we are all reliably at the house on a consistent basis. Jeremiah does a nice job leading us in the Liturgy of the Hours in the chapel, albeit with the lights on a little too brightly, I might add. I go back to sleep afterwards.
Coffee comes next. It is reassuring to say that coffee does not come first but rather second to prayer!
You never know what tasks are waiting for us on voicemail. Perhaps there is a Spanish-speaker looking for immigration advice, a parish question about grounds keeping or a person inquiring about living in our community. Today, it is a total of three calls from donors looking to drop off clothing for the Free Store. I return the calls and schedule a drop-off time later this afternoon.
I then place a call to a local organizer against the death penalty. Momentum is building against the death penalty, and we are ready and willing to help Central Ohio organize to that end. This Saturday, there is a gathering of Murder Victims Families at our place. Anyone out there who has ever planned anything from a high school graduation party to a social justice action knows all the work that goes into making an event happen—phone calls, transportation, refreshments, materials on hand, audio/visuals, scheduling kitchen duties, clean-up, you name it.
The next phone call is to the Diocese. Our summer resident Kaitlyn is working hard to develop the prayer life of the community. I won’t give away any secrets as to what plans are in the works, she’ll unveil those when the time comes! For now it is enough to say we have scheduled a time to meet folks from the downtown office to share ideas and coordinate activities.
Compost has been building up, so I consolidate our containers of food waste into one 5-gallon bucket, ready for a trip out to the garden later this afternoon. Recyclables are also gathered and put on the stoop, to be loaded into a car and taken to a local dumping station (Columbus has dozens all over the city, mostly at schools and fire departments).
The rains have interrupted our community garden workdays recently, especially the monsoon that hit last Wednesday evening. Our radishes are a bit past their prime and spinach and lettuce are quickly growing and need to be picked right away. If I get my act together, I can have some packets of salad ready to be given out at the Food Pantry tonight.
Speaking of the Food Pantry, an unexpected visitor came to the door. A young man said his neighborhood just had their yearly barbecue, and this time they added an extra twist: Attendees were to bring non-perishable food items to be donated. He brought several wonderful bags of items to give away. Pat was downstairs stocking shelves, so she and I gave him a tour of the Pantry.
We just got a new phone plan, as our previous provider jacked up our rates. Our old computer is not recognizing the new internet connection, so some troubleshooting is required. Like any business or home, there is no shortage of the day-to-day business concerns, such as working with utilities providers, plumbing problems, lawn care, shrubbery trimming, computers, etc.
The next conversation is with the maintenance man at the parish. We had some flooding in the basement last week. While the Food Pantry generously had the entire basement reconfigured to handle water drainage, there was so much rain last week that the windows themselves were holding back (unsuccessfully) literally gallons of water. I sought advice on how to best clean out the catch basins, as small trees have been sprouting out of them lately. I’ll be dredging them out this afternoon.
Creative juices seems to flow best somewhere between coffee and breakfast, so I am writing this blog post as well as another this morning. The blog is a great way to share reflections and to be a tool to promote issues and advertise events.
Later in the day I’ll do some light cleaning and make coffee for the ESL class & planning group tonight. Erin and Kaitlyn have been recording educational songs for ESL, and Linda, Vielka and Fran has been gathering real-world documents such as job applications to use for classes.
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Admittedly, much of the daytime work above is administrative blah-blah and probably not too exciting. However, the nuts & bolts of the operation make it possible for the other things happen. The community really comes alive in the evenings and weekends as folks gather to directly do the ministries themselves. During the day, it can be quiet but with still lots of planning and preparing, and it is easy to be too busy.
Where else can you spend your days in such a rich environment of service? Picking fresh produce for the Food Pantry, gathering clothing for the poor, planning a social justice event against the death penalty and sharing theological reflections on the blog in the span of just a few hours! I also should mention how good it feels to begin the day in community prayer.
Every day is different. Just to give an example of how different, we had a Fair Trade coffee event after Mass at St. Anthony parish yesterday followed by a community meal & meeting in the evening. On Saturday we organized a new Reading Room and reconfigured the Office at the house. Erin’s group is working on the ESL curriculum and Joan has plans for the Garden and Free Store. Each of them has a story to tell as well.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring!