December 30, 2009

It's Been A Whole Year?

This past year has been a really great one. It has been full of new experiences, new challenges, new joys, and new friendships. I first joined the Catholic Worker last November so I thought it would be best to highlight some of the changes that has taken place in my life from one year ago.

The first major step for me was to move into the Historic Northeast neighborhood. This neighborhood is featured on the nightly news often because of the crime that exists here. After working through some of my initial fears about the neighborhood, it has really grown on me. I can call many of our guests “friend” and am constantly amazed at how much they teach me. From one-legged Bill teaching me how to give my car a tune up to Marvin teaching me about living in dependence of one another, it truly has been life changing.

I had never before seen (nor given any thought to) the huge chasm that separates the suburban life from the inner city life. Over the course of the year I have become deeply saddened by this reality, and have been exploring ways to deepen my own solidarity with those who were born into poverty. I think of Jesus’ message in Mat. 25 where He speaks of giving food to the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, etc. I have begun to see the transformative power of these words. These words lived out bring about justice. They bring about justice because as we literally feed, clothe, shelter, and heal the poor we enter into relationship with them. Unlike giving money to charity who then gives to the poor, coming face to face with Jesus in the least of these compels us to open our homes and our lives to one another. It is the mutual sharing of gifts with one another that leaves both people forever changed, and that relationship plays a vital role in forming that new “beloved community” that Jesus initiated with those first disciples. Practicing the works of mercy have opened my eyes to the reality of a community where there is no Jew or gentile, slave or free, man or woman. We are all the same in this new family, which is justice and not charity.

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral. You can murder the hater but you can’t murder the hate. You just increase hate. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

After having lost 5 friends this past year to violence, and seeing countless others come to our place with black eyes and broken bones I find myself unable to justify any violence. Our friends who live on the streets daily experience verbal, societal, psychological, and physical violence. The people in our neighborhood find themselves in desperate situations and we work to undo violence by welcoming all as family and taking care of all as a family would care for its hurting brothers and sisters.

Jesus told us very clearly to love those who persecute us, and to pray for our enemies. He also instructed us to feed and clothe our enemy if that’s what he or she needed. I see how this works now, and am learning every day what it looks like to forgive and love. When we practice forgiveness, hate within us dies, and when we actively love those who hate us, we end up bringing light into very dark places.

About eight months ago our community decided to share all our outside earnings with one another. With the start of this common purse, each community member now works twenty hours per week and somehow we always have enough to go around. With our incomes combined, we have been able to share the burden of auto repairs, medical bills, cell phone payments, and grocery costs with each other. It has been great getting to discover how we can do much more together than apart, and to see how individualism kept us from experiencing this beautiful gift of freedom and community.

I have decided to stick around another year at Cherith Brook, and am excited about what will be in store these coming months. There will be some changes this coming year and I wanted to give you a heads up.

The most noticeable change will be that I will no longer be sending these newsletters out. Instead, I am going to focus my attention on the Cherith Brook publications that come out three times per year. I am making this change so I can focus more time on our guests who visit us at the house. Never fear, though! I will still update my website from time to time so feel free to continue to check up on me at

Secondly, all donations you send in will be going into our common pot. Let me explain this further. Because of our sharing of incomes, when people give they are giving to the community as a whole. All will benefit from your gifts. Your gifts help pay for the water bill so we can continue to offer showers four days a week, your gifts pay for the groceries we need to eat, your gifts pay for the loans on the houses so we can remain here, your gifts pay for bus passes so our friends can receive medical attention, your gifts pay for seeds we use to grow food for our guests and ourselves. Your gifts go to much bigger things than just an individual and I hope that this fact inspires you.

Thank you so much once more for your continued support (especially with all the changes I’ve been taking you all through). Even though this is the last personal newsletter I will be sending out, giving to Cherith Brook still works the same. Simply make your checks out to “Cherith Brook” and mail it in to our address: 3308 E 12th St. KCMO 64127.

I hope you had a great advent season, and I would just like to take these last moments to personally invite you to Cherith Brook. I would love nothing more than for you to “come and see” what it is Cherith Brook is doing for the least of these in our midst.

Stop by. Phone us or email.

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