A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of facilitating/participating in My Brother’s Keeper’s Urban Plunge. The Urban Plunge is a week of service for college students to come and discuss poverty and Jesus’ calling to help. 15 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, came from 5 different colleges to sleep on the floor of our warehouse and be our crew for a week of our regular food and furniture deliveries. I can’t begin to tell you what a delight it was to spend time with these young people, to hear about their plans for their lives, and to teach them about the many complicated aspects of poverty in Brockton.
During the week, we had the opportunity to make food and furniture deliveries, as well as serve a meal at The Table, hosted at MainSpring House. Because food deliveries are kind of my specialty, my furniture experience is lacking, so I really enjoyed the chance to spend time on the other side of MBK’s work. Wednesday morning Ryan Thorley, MBK’s operation’s manager, 5 young women and I got to deliver a full set of furniture to a family in Brockton. This particular family had been in their apartment for almost a month, and had been in a shelter before that so they were starting from scratch. Our delivery included 3 beds- box springs and frames, 2 dressers, a coffee table, kitchen table and chairs, couch, living room chair, lamps, dishes and, as always, a crucifix. When we hopped out of our truck the mother of the house looked at us and asked where all the men were. Despite the lack of men, we got everything inside and reassembled, but more importantly we got to know their family in the process. Seven people had just moved into this 3 bedroom apartment. While this may sound like hell to some, this was clearly a blessing for this family. Before this apartment they were sharing one room. So now, with a new set of furniture they could begin to make this apartment their home.
In addition to furniture deliveries I also had the chance to serve a meal at MainSpring’s The Table- their community lunch program. Preparing and serving a meal gave a perfect platform to discuss serving with dignity and the need to respect all people you meet. Many of the student commented during our reflection later that night that some of the people didn’t look homeless. This comment, while definitely well intentioned, highlights the expectations we have about the poor. That people should look and act a certain way. We served lunch at The Table in the morning and went out for food deliveries that afternoon. In an interesting turn of events, the first person we delivered food to recognized us from The Table that morning. Seeing our service come full circle was very rewarding for me and seeing this man’s home was definitely a learning experience for the students. Through that interaction we saw that not all the people at The Table are homeless and by meeting that man in his home he had the chance to share more of his life and reality with us.
The Urban Plunge was a wonderful experience of fellowship and learning. I am deeply impressed with these students willingness to spend the end of their Christmas break in service and to experience the uncomfortable realities of poverty. Blissful ignorance is much easier than engaged learning, but once you have met people and heard their stories it is impossible to forget them. I would like to continually invite and encourage anyone interested to volunteer at My Brother’s Keeper.