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November 18, 2018: Welcoming Our (Temporary) Neighbors

by Mother Diana

 

One Sunday night in early October, All Souls was ready to host our first “intern dinner.” A year ago, we received a grant to support innovation in ministry among young adults, and decided to use it to offer hospitality to residents of a neighboring building for college students spending a semester in the nation’s capital. A merry band of apron-clad cooks was in the kitchen, while in the sanctuary,  I lit candles for an evening prayer and yoga service wreathed with incense and the haunting ragas of live sitar music.             

Everything was perfect. Except not a single intern had shown up by the time yoga was to start. Some loyal parish souls and I practiced yoga, then trudged downstairs to sit at empty tables. We finally gave up and ate.  It was like a romantic comedy where the guy or gal never shows up at the top of the Empire State Building.

As we began to clean up, someone breathed, “Oh my God.” A full 90 minutes late, in came three young women and two young men, hungry and curious. I ran to find Fr. Jadon, who thought I was joking. We sat down with them, and using a method from “Living Compass,” an initiative that promotes assessment and growth in the areas of “heart, soul, mind, and strength,” we launched into a discussion of making fulfilling life changes. The students ate and ate, and lit up. Over seconds of dessert, they got down to brass tacks. One of the women asked, “What else do you have here we can do?” Stunned silence. Had someone called Central Casting to provide us with the interns we’d dreamed of?

Over the next six weeks, the interns kept coming, save for one dreadful night when, we later learned, they were all studying for an exam. Their feedback forms said: “It feels like I’m home.” “I feel I am being supported.” “I am grateful for the coaching.”

Now the interns are facing finals and the holidays and the end of their time in DC, and we will welcome a new crop next semester. We’ll try to draw more than the dozen or so interns who participated this time, by learning from this experiment and making some changes based on what worked and what didn’t. What won’t change is our belief in the importance of listening to the hopes and fears of young people alone in DC for the first time, and of hospitality as service. The final evening, one of the young men sidled up to Father Jadon to tell him about the small lifestyle changes he had made over the past week, in hopes of connecting better with people. That’s our goal, too.

Last Published: November 15, 2018 2:55 PM
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