September 7, 2012

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Time and attention can be the greatest gift we can give

David SilerI recently had the opportunity to volunteer alongside one of my board members and our agency director Joan Hess, at one of our newer Catholic Charities programs in Tell City called “Table of Blessings” that offers a hot meal once a week to people in need in the area.

As is usually the case when serving others, I believe that I was far more blessed at the “Table of Blessings” than those we served.

Borrowing a famous movie line and bending it a bit, “if you feed them, they will come” definitely applies here. When the program first started, about 20 people showed up. Now, about 70 people come every week.

Although most of those who come for a delicious, nutritious hot meal served every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. do so for the food, they also come for the fellowship offered by the volunteers and other partakers of the meal. As a father with a wife and 4 kids still living at home, it is easy for me to forget what a gift it is to share a meal with others.

For a while, I stood behind the kitchen serving line preparing plates of food and pouring drinks. After everyone had their meals, I walked around the cafeteria to get to know some of the guests.

I met a woman with six children whose husband decided not to join them because he was just too tired. She told me that he works two jobs and that he works very hard, but they barely make ends meet and have no health insurance. She told me that the family can never afford to go out for a meal so they consider the “Table of Blessings” their chance to “go out” once a week.

The person that made the biggest impression on me was a single, elderly gentleman. As I approached his table, he invited me to sit down in the chair across from him. He told me that when his legs are strong enough he walks the few blocks from where he lives alone to the Evangelical Church of Christ that hosts “Table of Blessings.”

I knew from his invitation that he wanted someone to talk to. So I gave him my full, undivided attention, and he went on to tell me about losing his wife several years ago, the business that he ran and, most of all, the struggle that it is to live alone. He described what it is like to sit in his chair for days at a time with no visitors or nothing productive to do. Every time he would begin to tear up, he would lean toward me to tell me an “off-color” joke.

I would guess that we talked for about 30 minutes. I could tell that he didn’t want our conversation to end so I let him decide when that would be. He finally grabbed both of my hands, thanked me for caring enough to just sit with him and talk, and told me to “get back to work!”

I jumped to my feet with a hearty, “Yes, sir,” and went back to the kitchen, where I stood for a few minutes composing myself as I thanked God for the opportunity to bring something even more important than food to one of his suffering people—the gift of time and attention.

You, too, can give the gift of time and attention in a variety of ways. To learn more about volunteering for the “Table of Blessings” and the other ministries of Catholic Charities, log on to

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at

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