We celebrated all the wonderful volunteers who contribute to making the Christ House community so special at Volunteer Appreciation Night on May 17th. We were delighted to hear from several volunteers who described their experiences serving with Christ House. We would love to share this beautiful reflection from two of our incredible kitchen volunteers. Thank you, Jackson and Meredith, for your invaluable help at Monday dinners and for these wonderful words about Christ House.
By Meredith Paker and Jackson Hopper
We’ve been volunteering in the kitchen at Christ House since last August, when we moved to Adams Morgan from England.
Tonight we wanted to share a little bit about our journey with Christ House — what you all mean to us, and some of what we’ve learned in the past nine months or so that we’ve been volunteering here.
We first noticed Christ House when we were walking through the neighborhood on our first day in DC. For both of us, this was the first time we had ever lived in a big city. We were so excited to be able to walk around and see everything, but also so nervous because neither of us knew anyone in the area. We live down at the other end of Columbia Road, so we passed Christ House every time we walked to the metro. And every time we passed, we noticed there were at least half a dozen people sitting outside, enjoying the summer heat and looking so happy. We wanted to see what this place was, and why there were always people outside. And it ended up being a more beautiful place than we had imagined.
At that time, we had just moved to a new part of the world, and we were also looking for ways to become more integrated and invested in our new community. As students, it’s easy get completely wrapped up in the research and learning that we’re trying to do. Sometimes we forget to lift our head from our books to look around and see the world and the people around us. It was important for both of us to avoid that easy path — we wanted to find out how to be good neighbors where we live, to uphold the community we had just moved into, where people had been living a long time.
Once we found out the mission of Christ House, we knew it was a place we wanted to get involved. Though neither of us is studying medicine — I’m doing math, and Meredith is doing economics — we’ve both volunteered in community shelters before, and we know how important it is to have access to safe spaces, medical care, and a supportive community.
Lydia made it so easy for us to get involved right away, and once we started working in the kitchen we knew it was the place for us. We have always felt so welcome and appreciated volunteering at dinnertime. It’s been such a joy to work with Micah and Miri and the other cooks, as well as to get to know many of the guests and Kairos volunteers. So many people give so much time and love to Christ House to make it as great as it is. We’ve felt like we have a place here where we can contribute to this great mission while serving and working with truly amazing people.
And once we start serving dinner, the real miracle happens. Every single week we’re here, the dining hall just fills with neighbors catching up, sharing jokes, sharing a meal together. It vibrates with people who are having a chance to recuperate in a loving community, and then give back to that community. I wish everyone who was sick or hurt got this opportunity that Christ House makes possible for its guests. That sense of connection and camaraderie is so beautiful to see. It makes it so worthwhile and helps keep us focused on why we love to volunteer here.
The big lesson we’re taking away from this whole experience is how important it is to keep people at the center of our lives. It’s important to serve your community — to build it up, to make it strong, and to contribute to it. We knew it was something we were looking for when we signed up to start volunteering here, and every experience we’ve had since we’ve gotten here has demonstrated it again and again.
What we didn’t expect was how much Christ House would make us feel like a part of the community. It’s meant a lot to both of us to feel so included during Monday dinners and to have a place where we can go and exist in the world in a different way than usual. The friendships we’ve formed with people here have made us feel like we belong in our new neighborhood and our new city, and in so many ways it feels like Christ House has given us more than we’ve given it.
We are so thankful for all of people at Christ House for being in our life, and for letting us be a part of yours.
So at Christ House we’ve learned something about how to love our neighbors. You can’t love your neighbor from inside your home, you have to go out into your neighborhood and love them. If you’re lucky, like we have been, they will love you back. So thank you all for being our neighbors.