Your prepared a place for me
By Br. Jerry Johnson, OFM Capuchin, executive director of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen
“You prepared a place for me” is a theme you can sense that runs throughout Scripture, especially in the Gospel of John and in Psalm 23. It’s a central goal of our mission here at the Soup Kitchen and the core essence of hospitality. Sometimes we fail at this at our soup kitchen sites and sometimes we do it very well, but nevertheless, it’s something for which we are always striving.
When you look closely at our activities you see that everywhere is preparation; we are preparing a place, a sacred space for our sisters and brothers. In multiple ways, through guests, donors, staff, and volunteers, we are preparing/sorting clothes for distribution; cleaning trays preparing for the next meal; preparing for the next art therapy session for the children’s program; nurturing yeast in bread preparing to rise; designing excel spreadsheets for garden planning; and helping to pay for overhead costs such as electric, heating, and plumbing bills so that people can have a place to be comfortable for a little while. I think of our chaplains and social workers who provide a private and dignified space for people to come and voice their struggles, hopes, and goals. This space we prepare is not only a physical space but also a spiritual and emotional space where we try to humbly set aside some of our own interests and pride for a little while to listen to and encourage one another.
In John’s Gospel, God through Jesus says to all humanity, and indeed to all creation: “I have prepared a place for you.” In this space all people can find the potential of their own name, their identity; to care and to be cared for. Really, this is the essence of the act of creation, God creating a space for creation, in God’s womb, or heart I imagine; so that all can be cared for and have their own life and unique identity, hopefully loving in return. God is utterly relational and humble. As children of God, we try our best to share this dedication to and respect for human life and all of creation.