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Compassionate Companionship

Blog Headers 2022-23 (2)

Editor’s note: DC Service Corps volunteer Matthew Hinderberger reflects on the need for companionship through an experience at his ministry site, Christ House, a home for men experiencing homelessness with acute medical needs.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” (Matthew 9: 36-38)

This verse from the book of Matthew is one that I look at often as it helps me to remember to be compassionate to those who I am around no matter the circumstance. Sometimes we can feel like sheep without a shepherd as stated in the verse. One major thing that we can take from this verse is that we can live like Jesus did in this very moment. Jesus was walking among hundreds of people and the one emotion that he felt for all of them was compassion. Now I know it may seem difficult to spread compassion to every single person that we meet every single day; it may be near impossible to do so, even if we wanted to. The compromise I believe that we should make is to be more compassionate to those people that we are showing compassion to on a daily basis, and if we see a need out in the world, make an effort to show some compassion and companionship. Putting effort into companionship isn’t something that is difficult to do, either; it usually consists of lending a listening ear to someone or something as simple as being in their presence.

These past couple of months working at my ministry site have taught me a lot about what it truly means to be compassionate to someone who really needs it.  I have heard the stories of men who have had struggles in their life and currently don’t have anyone to really tell their story–and it seems that all they really want is for someone to listen to them. Some men on the other hand aren’t much for talking; they just enjoy someone to be around them.  I’ve learned to accept that as well.

There was one instance with one of the residents of my ministry site that really made me aware of the need for compassion. It was warm sunny Friday morning so we were on our way to the library so that the guys could go look at books or use the computer. I had the usual two guys going with me who attended all of my events, but on our way out one man stopped me and asked, “Are you headed to the library?” I replied that we were, and he asked if he could come so that I could help him apply for food stamps. Of course, I replied, so we headed to the library. He was not the most mobile of residents in the center, so as we walked to the library he was a little behind the rest of the guys.  I started to notice that he was behind and I made sure that I was walking with him the entire way to the library.  This mile walk allowed us to engage in a deeper conversation. He had been in the facility for a couple months, and I could tell that he was lacking the human connection that was occurring on that walk. After helping him fill out his application for food stamps, I walked back with him and the rest of the men and we continued our conversation. In the rest of the time that he was at the facility, I could tell that he was more comfortable and that he knew that if he needed someone to talk to, I would be there.

Companionship and accompaniment aren’t something that all people get to experience because not every person has someone that they know will always be there for them. This became apparent to me only recently in my ministry. I had no idea that there was a need for compassion and accompaniment just about everywhere I looked. You may not be able to tell but just about everyone you meet is seeking some sort of accompaniment since the world essentially shut down due to the pandemic. In that time a lot of people were alone and away from the people that they love. With such a great need, it is clear that if we all took the time to offer a little compassion and accompaniment to our neighbors, it would make a big difference.

Question for reflection: What is a way that you could offer compassion and companionship to someone this week?

Matthew is from Tucson, Arizona. He graduated in 2022 from Ottawa University-Arizona with a BA in Exercise Science. He will be serving as the Patient Activities Coordinator at Christ House during his time in the DC Service Corps. While there he will be working to coordinate activities for residents of the facility who are in the recovery process, while also fostering Franciscan values as a ministry of presence for those at the facility. In his free time he enjoys reading and watching and playing various sports.