by Katie Delp
“How are things going?” she asked me, genuinely interested in the work happening in our community with FCS. It’s a simple - and quite common - question, and I appreciate those who care deeply about the ins-and-outs of our neighborhood work.
Still, I find myself taking a pause before responding.
How do I describe the tension that so often accompanies this work? On most days, I feel I could answer that question with either “things are going amazingly well” or “things are falling apart” and both would be equally true. I am recognizing how much there is this tightrope between extremes throughout my work.
First, there is the reality that we work in communities with people facing challenges. And when you position yourself in hard spaces, hard things happen. There are disruptions outside our control, and there are messy choices that have far-reaching consequences. We can celebrate with neighbors paying off mortgages, starting businesses, or making other personal strides. And we still hurt with those in moments of pain or suffering and work with them to minimize the fallout.
In addition, our work is nonprofit, which means we rely on the generous support of individual and organizational donors. This dependency often looks like waiting (and hoping and praying) to see if all the ducks fall in a row at just the right time. We collectively cheer when donations come through, while always keeping an eye on the numbers that sustain our programming and staff.
The true answer to the question “How are things going?” is two-fold. Things are really good… and they are fragile. In fact, it is simply grace that things are not falling apart most of the time. But I am also reminded that even if they do, God is present and God is faithful.
Father Gregory Boyle tells a story in his recent book “Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship” about a time his ministry, Homeboy Industries, was at risk of shorting payroll. Homeboy Industries employees former gang members, and Father Boyle had often over-hired in order to keep young men off the streets and to teach them job skills. But in this moment, the income was falling short of what was needed to pay all of the men.
He prayed and then prepared to break the bad news. Amazingly, a woman shows up with just over the amount he needs just in the nick of time. These stories of modern miracles are familiar in the precarious world of nonprofit operations, but what is striking is Father Boyle’s response.
He thanked God, of course, for providing for the men’s checks. But he goes on to say that if the money had not come through in the final hour, God is still the same. God is still present and God is faithful.
It is a beautiful reminder to me in my life and work that things are good, but they are fragile. It is by God’s grace that we walk this tightrope of faith. And in the midst of it all - regardless of specific outcomes - God is present and God is faithful.