A Guest Post from Together Rising Community Member and Volunteer, Katherine Welch.
I stood on the edge of the soccer field, three boys in tow and camera in hand, and I spotted her across the field, bundled against the fall chill, the bounce in her step immediately recognizable even though we had never before met. As she turned around, her eyes met mine, and she crossed the field toward me. But she stopped.
We tentatively stepped toward each other, and we hugged. Hug. That word doesn’t come close to capturing that moment, that moment when one who has laid bare her soul meets the one who has opened herself to receive it. I was there to give and to receive that hug, to feel the warmth, but when I remember it, I often feel like I’m hovering above those two women, looking down, not unlike how I imagine the One who orchestrated that moment might have viewed it.
A few months after I found the Momastery community, the first Holiday Hands was announced. I was feeling a new sense of urgency to give in a more meaningful way, a way that Together Rising has since helped me to define: small gifts given with big love. The structure of Holiday Hands made me anxious – I was going to be put in direct contact with another woman – but that is precisely why I knew I needed to get involved.
In my first email to Sunny, I got right down to business and asked what it was she needed or wanted. She, ever so gently, let me know that, for now, what she needed was some time. She needed space to figure out how she had found herself talking with me and if this was where she should be. So we exchanged emails for a while. We had no guide for what this was supposed to look like, but we muddled through. And one day, she was ready. She had some needs, some needs that gift cards could help meet, but she, also, had a big wish, a want that sounded almost too extravagant to give voice. But only almost. So she entrusted me with that wish: a camera. A camera to photograph her precious children in their Halloween costumes and on the first day of school and on family hikes, a camera to capture all of the other children she has mentored as a soccer coach. Of course. A camera.
When I became involved with Holiday Hands, I knew that “giver” and “recipient” were labels that weren’t quite going to fit. I knew I needed to be involved, that I was somehow asking for help, too. I just couldn’t understand prior to meeting Sunny the impact this experience would have. Giving in such a personal way, being connected directly to Sunny, was a critical step in my journey toward understanding that there is no “us” and “them;” there is only “us.” Our stories may seem different on the surface, but we have all experienced the beauty and pain of life; we are all doing our best. And I no longer think about “charitable giving,” but about serving. And serving is not something I do only when I write a check to buy mosquito nets or buy books for the families who can’t afford them at my boys’ school or participate in Holiday Hands; serving is about being present in my day-to-day life, about listening for others’ stories, and about making connections with one another.
It brings me such joy to see the beautiful pictures Sunny has taken with her camera and to know that I may have given her a needed boost during a difficult time in her life, but the true gift exchanged during that first Holiday Hands was far greater than a small package that passed from my hands to hers. The true gift was in the hug.