Day of Service in Cambridge Shelter

On May 24th eighteen staff members from Youville House and Youville Place Assisted Living Residences gathered at St. Patrick Women’s Shelter in Somerville, Massachusetts for a day of community service.  Staff, who represented almost all departments from both residences, painted walls and door frames, cleaned rooms, affixed new blinds, replaced old cove base moldings, rebuilt and outside patio space, and cut back an aggressive battalion of weeds.  During lunch break, the Director of the shelter, Nancy Kavanagh, spoke to the group about the mission, daily routine and, most poignantly, the women who live there – some for just a night; others for several months at a time as they look for work and a more permanent situation.  While not able to jump into the head and heart of each person present, it’s fair to say that something important happened, affecting everyone who participated that day.

The team made a genuine contribution to the aesthetics of the building and came together as a community among themselves.  Being in a situation where assistance was offered to others in need, helped to increase a sense of gratitude, and for some, opened a window on personal experiences where  difficulties were faced. 

Thankfully, most of us have help and support during those kinds of times -- someone to kindle the spark and relight the flame within us.  Hopefully, the effort the team offered on this one day of community service (painting  the hallways, cleaning, replacing blinds and fixing the patio) will brighten the space, and offer the women who come to that space each night, a sense that they are not alone..

Serving others is a wild and crazy adventure.  No matter how hard one tries, inevitably, those doing the serving seem to get more out of it and learn more than those being served.  The author and physician, Rachel Naomi Remen once said that, “Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.”   For sure, a bit of helping and fixing took place, yet, those who participated knew that this was mostly a work of service. 

For more information about the shelter click here.