The Power of Giving: St. Mary’s Style

The power of giving is a universal expression of selflessness that transcends beyond the factors of age, religion, or socioeconomic status. The act of giving is symbolic of one reducing themselves in order to replenish another. This past Saturday I had the opportunity to volunteer at the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church’s first annual “Poor Man’s Soup” event. This is an event that was used as a fundraiser in order to raise revenue for the church’s rectory renovation campaign. The event included fine art, a night of impressive community talent, and a formal soup dinner community-style. I volunteered to assist with the production of the event, and from there my view into the window of the awesomeness of neighborly love, joy, and giving began. The individuals who attended the event were all members of the church, and I could feel their attachment and care for their sanctuary with each conversation that I had. Many of the attendees had been coming to St. Mary’s for decades and their investment of time had caused them to create a great bond of closeness with one another. As a volunteer I was responsible for an assortment of tasks: ranging from set-up, assisting the cook with the main dinner course of the night, greeting guests, and collecting donations. Through my role in each task I had the wonderful opportunity to meet delightful personalities, one of them being a lady by the name of Lauren. Lauren has experienced tremendous struggles in her life and is now living as a low-income resident of a New York City housing complex. As she shared her life story with me, I couldn’t help but notice how she continued to have a permanent smile on her face along with contagious genuine laughter. I admired how she did not allow her circumstances to define her, and regardless of the state of her life she still managed to have happiness through her adversity. This short encounter exemplifies that overall presence of the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. The little church in West Harlem Manhattanville, that still continues to strive to help others shamelessly and without fear. My time as a volunteer for the “Poor Man’s Soup” event is merely a fragment of the insightful and inspiring times that I have experienced at St. Mary’s. My time as an intern, food pantry worker, volunteer, and resident of this family-oriented place have all contributed to my perspective of what I believe a community should be. The individuals who work and live her range from all areas of the spectrum: including socioeconomic status, race, educational background, and sexual orientation. However, the one commonality that they all share is the love that they have for one another. I have seen this community come together in the midst of celebration, heartache, and the act of helping a fellow peer who is in need. St. Mary’s is a safe-haven for all who enters into its territory and I am honored to share my year in New York City with this congregation.


A. Nicholson


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