Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J. tells us a little bit about the meaning of the word kinship. “Kinship – not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not a ‘man for others’; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.”
So we see that kinship is quite the challenge to attain. On our service trips and in life, kinship is the ideal and it is what we should strive for. But how often do we truly experience kinship and oneness with another person? I would say not very often. Once, maybe twice in a week-long service trip if we’re lucky. True kinship may even pass us by if we’re not paying careful attention.
But it is the very few times where we actually do experience kinship that makes all the difference in life. “God is in the details,” architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, and it is the details that provide the context for our lives. The details, the very times where we are truly one with another person, are what give life meaning. In this way, we are able to experience God by breaking down the barriers of human difference and relating to and being one with another person despite our differences. Or by accomplishing an arduous task with another person. Or in a really good cup of coffee. These instances of kinship are undeniably God and an attempt to explain the feeling we get when we experience this kinship is nothing other than futile.
On my service trip to Detroit, we went to different sites each day, so it was rather difficult to build relationships where we felt like we were truly one with another person. However, there was one instance on one of our first days in Detroit where we were working in a food pantry. We were sorting food and hygiene products into bags and boxes. I was working with another individual who was about my age, but he was working in the food pantry as part of his community service for parole. We had a lot to sort, so we needed to work quickly and efficiently. We didn’t say much and we worked as fast as we could to accomplish this task.
This was the most profound instance of kinship I encountered on my trip. While we didn’t share much about ourselves with each other, we were able to connect on a deeper level without exchanging very many words. The differences in our backgrounds and experiences didn’t matter anymore. We were focused on working together to accomplish a shared task. And from this experience, we were able to easily relate to each other after we finished the job when we otherwise might not have been able to. I would have never thought that I could have experienced being one with another person in such a simple way. From that experience, I learned to look for those rare opportunities where I can share an experience with another person, and I learned to look for God in the details.
Class of 2014
Host Site: Detroit, Michigan
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