Reflecting With My Head in an Oven

Catholic Volunteer Network, in partnership with Catholic Extension, is hosting Days of Service and Reflection all across the country in the dioceses where our Campus Recruitment Associates serve. As these events take place, we will share reflections from students who participate. During the first event, held in South Carolina, fifteen students from seven campuses came together to serve with Home Works, an organization that supports homeowners and communities in need.
Reflection by Shelby Irvin, College of Charleston 

….it was getting hot in there.
(No, just kidding!)
Today, I was part of a group of volunteers, coming from several colleges in South Carolina, working with a charity called Home Works. We were supposed to paint a woman’s house today…but the rain caused a change in our plans and we took up some jobs around the warehouse instead. One group prepared a garage sale – arranging and cleaning items to be sold; like light bulbs, arm chairs, and appliances. Another group cleaned up an area outside – an environmental hazard caused by improperly disposed paint. We worked for a few exhausting and exhilarating hours, then took a break for food and a reflection on the day. 
Photo courtesy of Catholic Volunteer
Network Recruiter Gordon Wong

Eating my sandwich, and listening to Hank, the founder of Home Works, talk about the origins, purposes, and impacts of his work, it occurred to me the wonder of little projects like the one we did today. We only worked a few hours; when we wrapped up for the day, the area my group had worked on clearing still had a great deal of clearing left to do. We were not finished, by any means.

Yet, it occurred to me while chomping on my savory Italian sub – work that is unfinished is the very essence of missions. The work to be done of this earth is never finished – there will always be pain, and poverty, and sin, and wounds to heal. And when we are in the thick of it, it is difficult to believe that what little work we are doing could ever make a difference in the face of so much left unfinished. 

Caitlin, one of the volunteers today, exemplified this perspective. Her task today was to clean an oven to be sold later at the garage sale. Now, I personally never saw the oven, but by Caitlin’s description, it must have been the dirtiest oven to ever occupy a warehouse. She said it seemed that oven would never be clean; no matter how much she scrubbed, it would always be grimy. And with her head in the oven, close-up to that seemingly permanent mess, it was hard to believe that her scrubbing made any difference at all. But, once she backed up and saw the whole thing, it was obvious that her hard work had made a great difference. No, the oven was not pristine…but it was much better than it was at the start.

Such is the truth of God’s work – humans will never be pristine, but with constant love, outreach, and effort, we can make an enormous difference. As Gandalf, the wise wizard of The Lord of the Rings series, would say, “It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.” With those small acts of love, we can show God’s love, and spread the kingdom of heaven to the farthest corners of the globe.

Photo courtesy of Catholic Volunteer Network Recruiter Gordon Wong
Shelby Irvin is a Sophomore Geology major at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, but was actually an opera major when she was a freshman. To learn more about the Catholic Campus Ministry at the College of Charleston visit website:
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