Reflection for August 2015

Our reflection this newsletter is written by Becky Long, the Gathering’s Program and Volunteer Manager. August 1 was Becky’s last day with us; she is moving on to work in the housing field. We will miss her terribly. ~ Ginny Schrag, Executive Director

Staff members Angela, Becky, and Marianne at the Gathering’s first ever major donor event

Staff members Angela, Becky, and Marianne at the Gathering’s first ever major donor event

I remember my first staff meeting with the Gathering vividly. The staff team felt like a curious little world that I wanted to be a part of—but was also kind of intimidated by. It was hard to imagine back then how quickly I’d get swept up into that energy, humor, compassion and dynamic fast-paced environment that kept and still keeps the Gathering spinning.

I remember another staff meeting on the south side nearly a year later. We had had a few very busy weeks with some expected and unexpected challenges, but everyone managed and continued the spin. At this particular meeting, we slowed down. Ginny took a moment to tell the staff how thankful she was for their work. I hadn’t been around very long, but I remember in that moment feeling proud and joyful. I remember looking around and agreeing wholeheartedly. This was an exceptional team. I knew that I belonged to this team and could learn from them, and learn I did.

Jim taught me that tough love and forming relationships can go a long way. Ed taught me the beauty that comes with devoting yourself to a cause. Moses taught me that there’s always a way to make it work. Dennis taught me, no matter how hard things get, you can still hope for the million dollars. Marianne taught me how to seamlessly integrate love, laughter and efficiency into the workplace and Ginny taught me the importance of being a patient, humble and incredibly dedicated leader.

I remember when Bob, Angela, and Rosy were added to the pack. Sitting at staff meetings, it was weird to not feel like the “new kid” anymore, but they never really felt like new kids either. Angela deeply cared about the guests, volunteers, staff and the Breakfast Program from day one. And Bob’s quips about corn dogs helped maintain the joyful attitude the Gathering is famous for. And who could forget Rosy? Together with Angela, they form a dream team with a passion that not only keeps the Gathering spinning, but pumps the Breakfast Program up to warp speed with a contagious, fun liveliness that can’t stop, won’t stop, and shouldn’t stop.

I guess it’s strange, but leaving this meal program, my reflections don’t bring me back to tables of food and guests. The tables that stick out in my mind are the office tables. Where the people I had grown to care for, learn from and belong to came together—where plans, ideas, concerns, lists, laughter and happiness were shared. The table that I come back to in my reflections doesn’t bring people together for a physical meal, but one of purpose, fulfillment, fellowship and spiritual nourishment.

I know when I leave, the Gathering will keep on spinning. New sources of energy will come and go and keep it alive. I am sad to leave what has felt like family for three years, but I know there will always be a place for me at the table.

A Reflection from our Executive Director, Ginny Schrag

While sitting in the dentist’s chair this morning undergoing a deep cleaning (UGH!), I was contemplating two questions: 1) why did I once again put off my annual check-up, resulting once again in something hurtful and 2) what am I going to write for a reflection? I’m blocked!

The first answer was easy. Although I really like and trust my dentist, the thought of having my teeth worked on is very unpleasant for me. It’s one of those things I choose to avoid, knowing full well that at some point I will break through my avoidance and choose to go back. And there was the answer to the second question: the word “choose.” I can choose. I have choices – oh, so many choices. And so many good choices, with backups, so that if I choose one thing that doesn’t work out, in most instances I have another relatively good choice to fall back on. That is a luxury compared to most of the world. To most of our meal guests, actually.

One of the first standards practiced at the Gathering that I became aware of in my early days here was that of offering choice to our guests. We don’t have a lot of choice we can offer, but we do have some. We ask if a guest wants a particular item rather than just assume and slop it on the plate. We ask guests to choose which cookies/pastries they would like. We offer milk and/or coffee both on the line and more coffee while guests are eating. We say “hello” and are not offended if a guest chooses not to respond.

So what’s the big deal about being able to choose which cookies you want? At the Gathering we believe that choice and dignity are intertwined. Giving choices – even small ones – affirms that the individual has the right and the ability and the freedom to choose. It helps set a tone of respect, acceptance, friendliness, community, family. That’s the big deal. The ability to choose, matters.