About 4theebeauty

Spiritual Reflections on the Beauty of Creation that lead us to thanksgiving and praise of our wonderfully mysterious Creator.

Why I don’t like working in soup kitchens

Reposted from article in Patheos of the same title, July 20, 2016. 

Last week I served at the Emmaus Soup Kitchen in Erie, PA. The next day, Sr. Mary who runs the kitchen asked me how my experience was. I hesitated before telling her the truth; I didn’t like it and actually, I don’t like soup kitchens in general.

All I did was serve fruit on the line this time. In the midst of asking guests if they would like what I’m serving and then scooping canned fruit onto plates with as much dignity as possible, I overheard quite a few conversations.

For example, one woman begged a server to help her carry her plate. She had just suffered a miscarriage, she said, and by the looks of her, it must have been recent. She appeared so weak and pale in the face, like all of her energy was drained. Regardless of how strong she was at the time she still needed to eat; and I was impressed at her ability to get herself to the kitchen to get a meal.

Another woman who appeared much younger than me (and I’m 26) came up asking for seconds. She mentioned she was pregnant so I took that as an invitation to engage in conversation. I asked when she was due and if this will be her first child. She said this will be her second but her first was stillborn. And she told me this in the same peppy way she asked for more food, like it were normal and not much more than just something that happened. After she left with her food, I wanted to go in the back of the kitchen, sit on the floor in a corner and cry. It wasn’t her peppy response that made me sad; everyone deals with pain in different ways. It was the realization that within less than two hours I had met two women who suffered through unsuccessful pregnancies and found themselves in a soup kitchen to provide for that day’s meal.

My thoughts immediately jumped back to my time as a graduate student when I often followed the doctors and nurses on their rounds in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). As a non-medical student, the doctors or other students would often explain to me in layman’s detail about the conditions of the babies. What I learned is that not all, but too many of the babies spending their first days, weeks or months in the NICU were suffering from symptoms linked to inadequate prenatal care. The ethics folks, with whom I was working, would later explain to me that many of the mothers of these tiny infants came from poor or impoverished families in which prenatal care was not a financial priority.

Women in poverty are suffering with the consequences of inadequate educational and health care systems that fail them in so many ways. We need better education about learning our own bodies, specifically as it relates to sexuality, birth control, pregnancy, birth, and parenting. And we need way better health care that provides every woman with prenatal care no matter who they are and how much or little they can pay.

This inequality of privilege is due to the realities of human life and, accordingly, the corruption and brokenness of our institutional systems as too many fail to put the needs of the most vulnerable first. Soup kitchens are places in which the reality of humanity is displayed more than anywhere else I have ever seen.

But it doesn’t take a conversation with a guest of the kitchen to demonstrate the realities of brokenness; rather one just need sit at a table and watch who comes through the doors and what interactions are had. But I find it difficult to get through a conversation without any of this coming up, either verbally or in the actions of another.

I understand the necessity of soup kitchens. They serve all sorts of people. The humans who arrive (to eat and to serve) in different ways exemplify struggles of mental illness, addictions, homelessness, poverty, loneliness, inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, trafficking, prostitution, the inadequate health care system, lack of adequate education, lack of parent involvement, lack of positive parenting, and more. These realities take all different forms; some of the humans are the perpetrators, some are the victims, and some are just trapped in systems that don’t support their development into becoming a full human being.

This is exactly the reason why I don’t like working in soup kitchens. Because when I’m there, I can’t shield my eyes from the poverty or inequality or injustice that people struggle with on a daily basis. Nor can I ignore my own privilege of health, financial stability and community I too often take for granted. When I’m there, scooping fruit from a can onto someone’s plate with as much dignity as possible, I am forced to face the reality that humanity is broken and our systems (which ought to be healing our wounds) are corrupt. I am forced to recognize my own responsibility in doing something to stop this corruption, to heal the brokenness.

I am forced to consider what my options are for becoming involved in working toward wholeness and justice. And I am forced to question the beliefs I profess: that all human beings are created in the image and likeness of a Loving Creator and therefore deserve their innate dignity and the ability to flourish into their fullest selves. Do I really believe this? If so, why am I not working in the soup kitchen each day? Why am I not standing up to the corrupt systems, raising my voice, and begging for the dignity of all? Sister Joan Chittister says that we don’t need to try to save the world—because we can’t—rather, we all need to do what we can where we are in order to make a difference. I suppose, then, I need to move beyond my dislike for soup kitchens—for the reality of humanity that it throws in my face—in order to be a part of the change for the better, in order to act in accordance with the beliefs I profess.IMG_3017.JPG


Breanna Mekuly just finished a summer internship withSister Joan Chittister, O.S.B. Before working with Sister Joan, Breanna graduated in 2014 from Vanderbilt Divinity School with a masters in theological studies and an emphasis in biomedical ethics. She then worked as a university minister at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, WI. Later this summer, Mekuly will be moving to Indiana to live, pray and work with a group of sisters who raise chickens, bees and alpacas on an organic farm. Breanna is the co-creator of an online monastery for progressive young female- and Catholic- identifying adults, ” Seekers and Discerners.”

Advertisements

Gone is the Light

“Gone is the Light” is a reflection on Good Friday written by Breanna Mekuly while visiting the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, PA during Holy Week in 2015. 


“Gone is the Light”

On that day, our world grew dark.

The clouds covered the sun;

The people cried in distress

When they realized what they had done.

 

“And now he’s gone!”

“What do we do?”

Such a mistake we have made.

How selfish are our hearts

When they call us out of love.

What is it we want?

What is it we seek?

 

Gone is the Light

From which to guide us.

The earth sits still

Breathing, waiting.

 

IMG_5767.JPG

Gone is the Light.

 

Like losing our sight,

We lost our guide

Leading us to a life worth living.

What’s left for us now?

We’ve ruined it all.

 

No reason to smile,

No hope in our hearts,

Just bitter memories

Of our imperfection.

 

Because

Gone is the Light

From which to guide us.

The earth sits still

Breathing, waiting.


 

Breanna Mekuly is a spiritual seeker currently living aBreanna Mekulynd ministering in Milwaukee, WI. She is committed to searching for and helping others find the Beauty of the Creator in everyday life. She keeps an Instagram account: @4TheeBeauty where she posts daily pictures of nature with spiritual reflections. For more, check out her blog For The(e) Beauty.

The Risk of a Relationship with the Creator

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of preaching but not a lot of practicing my own spirituality.

And I’m exhausted.

I’m exhausted because I’m not developing or growing or deepening my own spiritual life in the way I feel I ought to; rather, I’m listening to others and providing advice (often unsolicited). I encourage others to open their eyes to the beauty around them, the beauty of creation. I encourage others to spend time thinking about who the Spirit of the world is to them and how they connect with Her. I encourage others to take time to rest, to be in peace, in silence, to listen to the world around them, to look for the Creator’s presence in the world.

IMG_2220.JPG

But so few times do I take my own spiritual advice. So few times do I actually stop to think about my relationship with the Creator, or take time to intentionally develop our relationship. Sometimes it even seems scary; what might it be like to develop an intimate relationship with an Ultimate Mystery?

And sometimes I worry that I know how to think theologically but question if I actually know how to live spiritually. In other words, I know how I could develop my relationship with the Spirit, but do I actually try? Do I organize my day in a way that will provide space to deepen that relationship?

So lately, I have been praying. I’ve been asking for signs: what is it I am called to do? What is it I want to do? And what I’ve found is shocking. I’m exhausted. My body is calling for a rest. My physical body has almost given out on me – several times – in the past month. I don’t doubt this is over-exhaustion, my physical body calling my spiritual soul out, telling me as a whole that I need rest, a change, that I need something different. And my soul lately has been crying, too. It’s asking me for more connections – less distance from spiritual communities – places where my questions are heard as my own, not just as advice for others to think about; places where I can discover and respond and explore freely.

But responding to these findings seems like a huge risk, a huge life change, even. Am I asking for a better spiritual relationship but unable to accept the signs I’ve been given? Am I willing to make life changes to try to respond to these signs? Or am I risk averse? How do I step away from the good work I am doing now and say: it is time that I rest. It is time that I take care of myself. Because with all my heart I do think that it is now that I seek to know, rather than just preach about, the Creator.

 


 

Breanna Mekuly is a spiritual seeker currently living aBreanna Mekulynd ministering in Milwaukee, WI. She is committed to searching for and helping others find the Beauty of the Creator in everyday life. She keeps an Instagram account: @4TheeBeauty where she posts daily pictures of nature with spiritual reflections. For more, check out her blog For The(e) Beauty.

 

Waiting. Watching. Praying.

Breanna Mekuly is a spiritual seeker currently living aBreanna Mekulynd ministering in Milwaukee, WI. She is committed to searching for and helping others find the Beauty of the Creator in everyday life. She keeps an Instagram account: @4TheeBeauty where she posts daily pictures of nature with spiritual reflections. The following is reposted from her blog For The(e) Beauty.

 

Part of being human means we’re never satisfied. We’re constantly looking for more, for something that will make us feel some kind of strong emotion, some sort of ultimate and everlasting joy. We’re always waiting for whatever that is to come and complete us.

In the Christian Church, we celebrate the season of Advent as a time of waiting for Jesus to come into the world and bring the fulfillment of peace and joy and love. These weeks before Christmas provide a space for us to practice waiting – waiting for what is to come, waiting for what we deeply desire, waiting for the fulfillment of ourselves.

And while we wait, we are able to imagine what the fulfillment of joy and peace and love might look like in our individual lives and in the world. We watch the world around us to observe the realities in which we live. What is happening? Where is beauty? Where is hatred? Where is love? Who is suffering? Why? And then we pray. While we wait and watch, we pray for this fulfillment to come. We pray for goodness to overcome the evil, for beauty to emerge where there is ugliness, for joy to rest forever in our hearts.

So, what are you waiting for? And how are you waiting? With your eyes open or closed? Are you paying attention to what is around you? Are you paying attention to how you feel? Or are you just busying yourself to get through each day and onto the next until whatever it is you’re waiting for magically appears? Do you take time to pray, to reflect upon what you see? Do you take time to pray, to admire the beauty that surrounds you? Do you take time to pray, to act upon what must be done now – to bring about justice, joy and peace – while you wait?

What might it look like for us to be continual observers of the world, watching and praying, while we wait?

IMG_6153

For more reflections like this, check out Breanna’s blog: For The(e) Beauty.

The Earth is Crawling with Reflections of the Creator

Breanna Mekuly is a spiritual seeker currently living aBreanna Mekulynd ministering in Milwaukee, WI. She is committed to searching for and helping others find the Beauty of the Creator in everyday life. She keeps an Instagram account: @4TheeBeauty where she posts daily pictures of nature with spiritual reflections. The following is reposted from her blog For The(e) Beauty.

 

This morning I took my dog for a walk half groggily as I had just awaken. Yet my senses were extra keen today. Twice daily I walk the same path and often stop to admire the beauty of the flowers blooming in the morning light or, more recently, the changing of the leaves as they turn from a healthy green to an array of yellows and reds and purples and oranges. But today I saw something different on a tree I pass so often. Here, at the bottom of a large mature tree with branches extending far and wide above me, I noticed a few white mushrooms growing stealthily in the wood. And suddenly I was struck awake: How often do I miss details of the world around me? On what do I focus on my daily commute? What reality am I living in? One of technology? Of distraction? How can I walk the same path each day and not see something new each time? Isn’t the world full of life? Have I forgotten to see Beauty? Have I forgotten that the Creator shows Herself in Her creation? Have I lost interest in exploring, adventuring, in coming to know the unknown? Have I shut off my spiritual curiosity?

But with all of this, today I am joyful with gratitude; I have been gifted once more wonder and beauty to see the earth, creation, life – all of which is crawling with reflections of the Creator.

And so I pray: Loving Creator, Maker of all that exists and has passed, open my eyes and my ears to see and hear you right where I am. Grant me the gifts of admiration and wonder. Open my heart to beauty and delight. And remind me, daily, that it all comes from You. Amen.

IMG_5104

For more reflections like this, check out Breanna’s blog: For The(e) Beauty.