Between July of 2000 and July 2005, I worked as a youth minister and pastoral associate with a small Catholic Church and mission community in Northern Virginia. Over the five years I was there, I met a lot of wonderful people, and some of them gave me presents, usually around Christmas and end of the school year. One of these gifts falls into the category of "stuff I carry around with me wherever I go and don't really know why."
This small plate, dish, or whatever has literally served over the years as a "catch-all." I kept it on top of a small shelf and daily emptied the contents of my pockets onto it. However, in our last two dwellings, I relegated it to the crate of stuff I move from place to place hoping that the irritation of its very presence will be lessened by its itinerant character. [This crate and its contents are the inspiration behind my project to inventory the memories brought to mind by things in this apartment that I have not been able to leave behind.]
In absolute honesty, I cannot remember the person or occasion that brought this piece of steel into my life. I vaguely remember the mother of one of the participants in our summer program presenting me with a gift at the end of the program. I remember not expecting it. I remember opening it and thinking, "What the heck am I going to do with this?" I remember thinking, "I don't even have a house." In fact, for the past 6-8 years (I estimate I received this in August of 2003, give or take a year) I only lived in a house for 3 of them (if you count the 2 years we spent on the third floor of a row-house in New Haven, CT). What I do remember is parents' gratitude every year that I did that summer program. It went through ups and downs, but the parents and the kids really appreciated it. As cynical as I have become about youth ministry, I can't deny that there is something special about offering children a safe place to have fun, and to be an adult whose company they enjoy and with whom they enjoy their summer afternoons.
I don't really miss youth ministry. But I do miss the kids and their parents. This little plate calls those sentiments to mind. That is a blessing to me. I'm going to take it to Goodwill and hopefully it can be a blessing to someone else too.