After having steady (and often overlapping!) groups for a month and a half, CSM New York has hit a bit of a hosting lull. We'll have a couple more groups pass through before my time here is up in about another month, but until then, we're running errands, working around the office and housing site, and spending some time at our regular ministry sites to maintain contact and support there.
Yesterday morning, Emily and I (and Breanna - her best friend from home) set out to meet up with our directors in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. We were meeting one of the director's close friends, who is the volunteer coordinator for an organization called the Hudson Guild. In addition to running a community center for local senior citizens, the Hudson Guild also runs a meals on wheels service. Currently, CSM NYC doesn't partner with any ministies or agencies that specifically serve the elderly, so we will be working with the Hudson Guild starting this summer.
I partnered up with a regular Meals on Wheels worker named Sjade (pronounced saw-day), and spent the morning walking through Chelsea delivering meals to individuals and couples in various public housing units, low-income apartments, and even a center for the blind. **Actually, before all that, I almost DIED. Not really... but it was the first time I rode in a car with a native New York driver... I've avoided taxis because they are expensive, but also because I want to avoid being on the roads PERIOD. The guy driving was flying down streets, darting through taxis and pedestrians, and honking at anything that moved... and so was everyone else. But hey... another new experience, right? Haha.** After my horribly "exciting" ride, Sjade and I basically walked, delivered, and chatted our way from 34th street back to 17th street. In addition to having a blast getting to know Sjade, we knocked on doors, talked with some people who hungrily awaited our deliveries, and even helped an elderly woman in the blind housing off the floor who had fallen shortly before we arrived. During our orientation, we had been told that the Hudson Guild deliverers are often the only contact that some of their clients have with ANYONE all day. That rubbed me the wrong way, but it wasn't until seeing this poor blind woman trying to muster her strength to pull herself off the floor, that I realized how heartbreaking it really was. What if we hadn't come? How long would it have taken for someone to notice? Just another thing I am trying to learn to not take for granted...
After parting from Sjade shortly before her last delivery, I booked it for the closest subway and made my train and bus transfers to Maspeth Bible Church in Queens. This church (our first and only ministry site in Queens) opens their doors to local kids every Friday for an open gym program afterschool. The woman who runs the program, said that just last month they averaged between 30 and 40 kids per week. Just a few short weeks later, they expect close to 90 kids every Friday!! Dorothy was a little understaffed yesterday, so CSM sent me to help them keep things running. I spent the little bit of time I had before kids arrived coming up with a sample craft, and got the art room ready for a couple dozen little girls that would come hang out with me later, and I had a blast.
If you know anything about me, you know my heart has always been with kids. If I wasn't working at the Boys and Girls Club during college, I was somehow tutoring, coaching basketball, babysitting, or camp counseling. Which is funny, because since coming up to the city, our ministry sites with children have been the ones where I have felt the most disconnected. Maybe its because those tend to be the sites where I have to float and supervise my groups more instead of actively engaging in the activity, or maybe it was because God was slowly opening my eyes to other things... Maybe it was a little of both. But I think God has defintiely succeeded in showing me that I am happy as long as I am serving and investing in people - it doesn't really matter where I am or who I am doing it with. Awesome gift, huh?