From Sister Mary
Sister Mary

Dear Friends of Emmaus,

I had to do something recently that I've never done at Emmaus. I had to close the soup kitchen for a day. A fight had broken out the day before and, in addition to a lot of cursing and punch throwing, one of our staff members got pushed against the wall and had to go to the emergency room and get her hand bandaged. We've had skirmishes before at the kitchen, but this went beyond.

There were reasons for this, of course. It was the end of the month and people are desperate - they're waiting for their next check. It was the holiday season and all the agendas of regret and loneliness and "homesickness" surface amid the Christmas carols that blare and the ads that show warm homes and families celebrating. And there are mental illnesses and addictions and relationship disputes and hours walking the streets in the cold before they arrive on the soup kitchen doorstep.

But such behavior is unacceptable at Emmaus - so here's what we did. The day after the fight, the entire staff gathered at the kitchen. We let each person in the door and told them we were closed and why. We gave individuals prepared sandwiches to take with them and families a bag of food.

I expected a lot of anger and bad mouthing and shouting. Only one person was irritated. The other 150 guests that day amazed me. "We're so sorry this happened," they said. One woman burst into tears when she saw that staff member's hand was bandaged. So many told us, "You're doing the right thing, sister. You don't have to put up with that stuff and we don't either." And the most constant response was: "bless you, bless you for all that you do for us."

We were all shocked. We had spent a lot of time preparing ourselves for how to respond to the anger that we anticipated. Instead we were met with kindness and understanding and empathy. What began as a disturbing situation turned into a precious blessing.

The least I can do, then, is pay the blessing forward and share with you all the goodness that I taste and see each day at Emmaus. I love my work. I am surrounded by such beautiful people-benefactors, staff, volunteers and guests-that I feel I am the most blessed person on earth. Thank you for all you do to make the blessings abound.