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Small Acts

Blog Headers 2022-23 (7)

Editor’s note: DC Service Corps volunteer Matthew Hinderberger recalls a small act of service that he witnessed during his ministry at Christ House, and reflects on how our Catholic faith draws us toward others in service. 

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:9b-10)

In this chapter, Isaiah listened to his people complain about God not recognizing their observance of fasting. The people focused on how God would bless them through fasting and not how God will use them to serve others through fasting. Here we find Isaiah calling them out from the hypocrisy that they built around the practice of fasting. The Israelites had been fasting, but it had become a ritual of simply going through the motions. They felt as though they should see God at work more in their lives based on their devotion to the fast.

When I read this passage I can immediately connect the meaning and the importance of it to the ministry work that I have been doing these past eight months. The main message that I receive is the importance of the acts of piety that we perform are not meant solely for the benefit of ourselves but to turn us outward to service of those that are around us. There is such a need in today’s world for acts of outward service for others, but we must remember to perform them for the right reasons. You never know what the smallest outward act of service can do for someone or how badly someone might need it.

There is one instance in which this idea was very evident to me. Through our facility we have various volunteers come and lead activities. We had a volunteer come in and give haircuts to some of the men that might need one. We had a great turnout, so much so that we had some guys who unfortunately had to wait until the following week to get a haircut—but don’t worry, this is going to be a regular occurrence. One man, who was new to the facility, was one of the last ones who was able to get a haircut for the day. It was either his first or second day at Christ House, so I didn’t really know much about him, as this was my first or second interaction with him. He had just finished getting his haircut and went to sit down and put his jacket back on. As he’s sitting there, he says out of nowhere, “Thank you, Lord,” and keeps repeating that phrase. He then looks at me and says, “I did it, I took the first step, I got a haircut. And I feel like a person again.” As I looked at him he had quite literally the biggest smile that I had ever seen on his face. He then asked me if I could take a picture of him so that he could send it to his kids, and I happily agreed.

At the time of this interaction, I didn’t really think much of it.  But as I was in our house chapel later that night, I was reflecting on my day as I usually do, and that event stuck out to me. This man, who had just been out of the hospital because of some unfortunate circumstance and was probably in more pain than I could imagine, was forever grateful for a haircut, something that most people would take for granted.  When we interact with those who may not be as fortunate as we are at the time, and when we remember the fact that even small acts can make a difference in someone’s life, we can create the respect for others that the world needs.

Question for reflection: How is your faith calling you to serve others?

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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.