My first paying job was at the drive-thru window of a fast food restaurant just a few miles from where I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio. My role was to listen for the “beep” letting me know a customer was at the kiosk. My scripted reply: “Welcome to Rax Roast Beef! How can we serve you today?” The communication between me and the customer was crucial to getting their order correct, but I’ll admit my success rate was not very high. Sometimes it felt like I was a decoder, trying to discern the enemy’s next transmission as I listened intently to garbled voices with southern Ohio accents deciding between regular or curly fries. When I handed them a chocolate shake instead, customers were not always very understanding.
June 3 is Service Sunday at First Congo. We’re not serving up fries or shakes, but we are hopeful that what we do together matches up well with someone else’s need. Part of the planning process involved reaching out to our neighbors such as Richmond Elementary School, Jake’s Diapers, Samaritan Counseling, and The Heritage, is to ask: “How could we serve you through our Service Sunday?” We could not have guessed that the replies would include painting yoga stencils on a playground, packing cloth diaper kits for 500 babies in Puerto Rico, or making child-sized fleece blankets. Sometimes asking someone what they really need leads to some surprising answers. Especially when you really listen for their answer.
It’s one thing to want to be of service. It’s another thing to listen first, discern the need, and then match our service to our neighbor’s need or want. Service without listening and understanding can be self-centered. Service in response to what we hear from each other builds a community of mutuality.
I’m looking forward to serving alongside you on Sunday. I encourage you to wonder about the “who” and the “why” behind whatever project you choose: the babies who will have clean diapers, the certified nursing assistants who will have homemade cookies delivered to them in beautifully decorated butterfly boxes, the food pantry guests who will enjoy fresh vegetables from our garden, the children who will find comfort from a new fleece blanket, or the ones who will receive a new book to read over the summer. Why, and how, might our small contribution make a difference for someone else?
Your friend and fellow servant, Pastor Kathryn Kuhn