I have always heard of the classic “southern hospitality,” but never lived anywhere long enough…
When I left college, I was so excited about not having to be in a classroom. I could not wait to get out into “the real world” (whatever that means, anyways!) and feel like a productive member of society. All my life in school, I had heard that the world is your classroom, so in an effort to continue my education I have compiled some things I have learned at St. Mary’s Community Center:
1. The power of community bonds people together in hard times.
Even with a population of 150,000, Savannah seems like a small town and a small community. As people often say, “It’s all about who you know in Savannah.” When you make a connection in the community, it can go far. When the government shut down, St. Mary’s Community Center and Publix wanted to do something to help the Coast Guard and TSA workers have access to meals. One of my MVC community members, Jess, works with a young man whose mother works at TSA. After talking with Jess and her client’s mom, we were able to save bread, produce, sweets, and eggs so TSA workers could save some money on groceries. Sr. Pat, our fearless leader, knew the commander of the Coast Guard’s wife, so we were able to save some food for the Coast Guard. What a small town Savannah is!
2. Working for a mission-driven, not-for-profit health system means we get to live out values of charity and compassion.
St. Mary’s Community Center is under the umbrella of St. Joseph’s Candler health system, a wonderfully charitable hospital. At a time when the cost of healthcare is so expensive and in a state that did not expand Medicaid for the poor and vulnerable, St. Joseph’s Candler helps people who cannot afford decent healthcare. A man with diabetes called last month who needed to have foot surgery, and he met a surgeon in a neighboring town who would operate on his foot for free. However, they needed a room to operate in, and we were able to arrange the man to apply for financial assistance to get his foot surgery done. The man – who could not afford to pay for the surgery – now has one less medical bill to worry about!
3. Sometimes, all you need is a cookie.
One day, a man came in who has had a rough go in life. He came in and wanted us to call his lawyer so he could sue the city of Savannah – he tries to file many lawsuits, so it is not a strange request from him. We found the number for his lawyer and got the phone out so we could make a phone call, and he said, “You know, I don’t think I want to call them today. I think I just want a cookie.”
It seems like odd logic – one minute, you are so furious at the world you want to sue someone, then the next minute, you want a cookie. But, when you think about how good a cookie tastes, and how bad the world is sometimes, a cookie is a great remedy for a tough day.
4. I am not an octopus.
This is a lesson I desperately needed to learn in college but was fortunate enough to learn this year. An octopus has 8 arms, and I only have 2. While I can do my best to multitask and get as much done as I possibly can in a day, I really only have 2 arms and cannot fax, answer the phone, and make copies at the same time. On really busy days at the community center, I try to do everything at the same time. Really, that is inefficient and stressful, so it is best to stick to just having 2 arms. After all, I think God made us to only have 2 arms so we can learn how to ask for help, be humble, and rely on others. What a beautiful thing it is to not be an octopus, and to be ok with that!
Kelly Taft: Savannah, Georgia