This is an extract from a piece my friend Roland Dale wrote for the Catholic Worker paper a few years ago when he had just started working in their London night hostel.
“It was a question of justice that first brought me to the London Catholic Worker: how can I live my life in a way that means justice to the peoples of the world – the poor, the oppressed, the homeless, the voiceless, the hungry? If all that suffering out there is real, what will I do with my life? How will I respond? Here at Guiseppe Conlon House, we (…..) run a night shelter providing emergency accommodation for about 20 destitute asylum seekers (I can hear them snoring in the next room as I write this), and a community cafe (where people occasionally even pay for what they order!) We help to run a soup kitchen, and we’re as active as we possibly can be in acting and speaking out against violence and injustice.
It all sounds great on paper, to me at least, but I often can’t shake the feeling that basically it all boils down to us doing a lot of cooking, cleaning, chatting, moving stuff from one place to another, and standing around in the freezing cold with a banner or placard frozen to our icy finger tips. Not exactly glamorous stuff.
As I sorted out the laundry the other day, putting someone else’s’ dirty underwear into the wash, I was struck by a sense of futility as it occurred to me that perhaps none of this was making a difference at all. It’s a common feeling, so I’m told, amongst those struggling to follow Christ’s call to work for justice and liberation. Luckily Dorothy Day [co-founder of the C.W.M.] has some wise words:
“People say, what is the sense of our small effort? They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time; we can be responsible only for the one action of the present moment. But we can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalise and transform these actions, and know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”
I hope you will always know that, one step at a time, your response of love will undoubtedly help to make the world a better place.”
The London Catholic Worker, no, 39 (Easter 2013) p.9 “Sowing Seeds: One step at a time” by Roland Dale