Gratitude and Service
By: Deven Comen
February 3, 2012
“God sent you here. I didn’t even ask him to, but I know he did”.
Between instructing three Georgetown student volunteers on how to arrange her dishes or where the vacuum cleaner was located, a Carver 2000 Senior Mansion resident took a moment to praise God for sending her these “heavenly angels”.
With hopes to spark intellectual and spiritual dialogue among the Georgetown community and beyond, Georgetown’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration was observed January 17th to the 21st this year. The annual Let Freedom Ring concert, sponsored by Georgetown and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, kicked off the university's week of events celebrating the life of King Jr. After a series of academic, artistic and extracurricular programs, a day of community service in D.C.’s Ward 7 on January 21st concluded the week of reflection. Members of the university community including students and staff spent time working for and among local community members and organizations.
Feeling more disconnected from direct service work than years past, I signed up to be a site leader for the MLK Day of service. My fellow students and I traveled to Ward 7 to visit Carver 2000 Senior Mansion, an apartment building located near Benning Road Metro Station. We were divided into groups of three to perform various cleaning tasks ranging from dusting, vacuuming, and arranging. One of my colleagues essentially played a game of Tetris with a pantry while another re-arranged the many hats of our resident.
Besides the satisfaction from the physical labor than we performed, we agreed in a post-service roundtable that we felt fortunate to share a conversation with a born-and-raised-DC resident. Her vivacious character was illustrated by her joking self-deprecation, eccentric fashion collection, and her collection of tigers and many other figurines covering her apartment. Her personality could only be trumped by her gratitude; she even felt compelled to play King James Bible verses on CD while we worked so we could all “be grateful for God bringing us together”. Our resident was glad to talk to us three strangers about her grandchildren, explain photographs of her family history, and curiously ask us questions about our lives as well.
Georgetown hopes to cultivate “contemplatives in action” who respond creatively and concretely to the pressing needs of our world in the Jesuit educational tradition. In the tradition of forming men and women for others who wish to create a more just world for all, community based events like this bring us closer to our DC neighbors, some of whom seemed quite lonely. Even if it was just one day, I hope that those who participated in the MLK Day of Service were touched to remember King’s legacy, widen their perspective of our DC community, and maybe if they were as lucky as I was, feel a bit of gratitude for relationships and companionship in our busy, Hoya lives.