A Picture of Transforming Love

I have a photograph that struck me when I first saw it and has stayed with my ever since. It is a picture of a group of young kids putting together a pan of baked ziti. The children are the ones holding the spoons and pouring the next ingredient into the pan while the adults are off to the side, watchful. In the background, the word LOVE from a banner on the wall is almost perfectly framed by the faces in the foreground. It is just a great shot.

The event was a “Faith in Action” Sunday. On those Sundays, instead of the usual Sunday School classes, we have all kids pitch in on a service project like a river clean-up, a bag-lunch prep for the hungry, or making toiletry bags for the homeless. This day we are making several pans of baked ziti for the opening of a new homeless shelter.

The adults were telling the children about the new shelter, describing how helpful the meal would be for the people. One of the kids asked, “Why can’t the people just go to a hotel?” It became one of those educational moments teachers long for. The children asked questions out of their curiosity rather than being told things because the curriculum said it was time to tell students the next piece of information. “How did they become homeless?” “Where were they sleeping last night before the shelter opened?” “What are they going to eat tomorrow night when the Ziti is gone?”

Later, one of the adults was raving to me about the experience. She said, “That was perfect! I want to do it again. The kids were engaged, they were curious, and they … they ‘got it.’ Do you know what I mean?” It was that elegant combination of action and reflection, of faith in action, all rolled into a one-hour experience which was transformative for the children and the adults alike.

Some years later, I had a Déjà vu moment when one of the kids from that photo was in our Coming of Age program. One of the activities is for the 13-year-olds and their mentors to visit a soup kitchen to prepare and serve a meal together. I heard the youth say it was her favorite and most meaningful part of the program: preparing, serving, and ultimately sharing a meal with hungry people in need of food.

Part of the work is to feed the hungry. Part of the work is to transform souls, to let love wield its transformative power on our hearts.