Kaylee Vance and her Connect group gathered around a table one night, marveling at Kaylee’s delicious soup recipe as they ate from goofy bowls. They had each walked into her house that night, not only with the funniest bowl they could find to bring, but with armloads of food and household goods ready to pack up to send to Harvest Time International.
The group calls themselves “The Tangents”, embracing their tendency to wander off topic in their group discussions. While they may refer to these discussions as “tangents”, as I talked with Kaylee and a member of her group, Kimberly, I began to suspect that these extraneous conversations were where some of the most valuable and meaningful topics were broached.
A few weeks after the speaker series, In Justice, addressed four ongoing social justice issues of our time, The Tangents decided to tackle these issues in their group as well. Following the same schedule as In Justice, they started with a discussion on poverty. The group walked in with all sorts of perspectives on the issue, but the overarching theme was one that I think we all tend toward to some extent—they were overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem.
Kaylee had felt it too; her training in the mental health field and career in the world of nonprofits had exposed her to material poverty and shown her first hand some of the seemingly insurmountable struggles it leaves in its wake. But she had also seen what happens when people shrink back because of fear or feelings of inadequacy—nothing.
So. The Tangents decided to do something. Kaylee hosted a “Bring Your Own Soup Bowl Party”. The idea is simple; the host provides the soup and the guests provide their own bowl, along with a donation for a local food pantry. The imagery of the group eating soup out of mismatched bowls points the guests’ minds toward a soup kitchen. Even though group member Kimberly grew up volunteering often with her family in homeless shelters and knows that soup is actually a rarity on the menu, she thinks the imagery does its job. The group then has a chance to examine their preconceived notions about poverty, homelessness, and shelters in general.
After choosing a food pantry in their community to donate the collected items to, the group was astonished to see how much their small group was able to pull together. In the grand scheme of things, however, they all recognized that their donation was still just a drop in the bucket of needs of this world. But, that wasn’t what their group took away from the event.
“You have to start small.” Kaylee explained, “If your small sacrifice grows a little each time, you’re going to be amazed at how big it can end up.”
“But, even if it doesn’t” Kimberly added, “it’s still more than nothing.”
They went on to explain that they wanted to overcome the notion that doing something impactful had to mean taking on a huge task that made you really uncomfortable. Sometimes God does call us to things like that, but when he doesn’t, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do anything. That is exactly what Kaylee and The Tangents hope you take away from this story. Not that they themselves did something great, but that, in the face of an overwhelming problem, they did something instead of nothing. And so can you.