photo by Charles Edward Case

Last week I had the privilege of giving a chapel talk at an independent school on the Upper West Side. The students were middle-school aged, and despite some very real generalized anxiety about coronavirus, they listened closely and respectfully as I spoke about Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. They had studied HASK as an example in their “Love in Action” unit. I was there to make it real(er).

There was not a lot of time for questions at the end of my talk, and a couple of the questions asked were of the gathering-of-information variety: “Where do you get your food?” and “How many children go to the soup kitchen?” But the rest of the questions focused on a story I told about a man from California who ran away from his family and ended up in New York City without money, friends, or a place to stay. I described his parents reaching out to us, making the trip across the country to find their son, and being reunited with him in the soup kitchen.

The young people were fascinated by the man who had lost his way. They wanted to know how old he was, how he got the money to make the trip, why he ran away. And it was really moving to hear their concern for an individual they had never met; their desire to know more about his situation and their hope for a happy ending to his story.

In Lent we look at all the ways we fall short of God’s hopes and dreams for us. My short time with these wonderful young people reminded me that, in addition to naming our default patterns of sinfulness, it is important to recognize that God had knit us together with a natural curiosity about others and a default hope for the health and well-being of those around us—friends and strangers alike. In our darkest moments of self-reflection may we also remember the love God has for us and creates within us; love that made us and love that we are made to share.