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October 29, 2012

Moments of Authentic Beauty

Moments of authentic beauty are difficult to come by these days. Many people can go years without experiencing such touching and captivating moments. Looking back on my summer with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS), I'm thankful to say that these elusive moments of beauty were not an uncommon occurrence. It’s funny to think that several months ago the prospect of spending my summer working under the Social Services department of the Diocese of Sacramento felt more like a burden than an opportunity. When Beth White, the head of the Social Services department, told me and Joshua that we would be working with a non-profit food bank, I was skeptical at best. The idea of spending a summer in a food pantry sounded like an unproductive and laborious time. Little did I know that my summer would turn out to be one of the most amazing, inspiring, exhausting and rewarding summers to date.
One of the many memories I will never forget occurred in SFBFS’ Adult Education program where I spent a good amount of time helping students prepare for their GED exam. I had spent a good part of the morning helping a client with her math assignment. Despite her best efforts, I could tell that she was starting to become frustrated with word problems, resulting in my own impatience and frustration. At one point she politely excused herself for an important phone call, which allowed us to take a short break from the intimidating word problems concerning John and his team’s win to loss ratio. As she left the room, I decided to look over her file and assessment test. I checked the section where it asks the client to write a paragraph about why they want to enter the Adult Education program at SFBFS. As I read her paragraph, my heart sank and I let out a huge smile. She wrote about how she wanted to get her GED in order to go to college and to one day own her own business. All this so that she can provide a better life for her and her son. As I finished reading her file, she came back into the room and we immediately began work again, this time with more patience and a bit more determination on my part. Little did I know that the son she worked tirelessly to provide a future for was the same young boy that I helped earlier in the week with a computer project for SFBFS’ Youth Education program.

In one day, I witnessed the entire mission of SFBFS culminate into a single experience. A mission “dedicated to assisting those in need by alleviating their immediate pain and problems and moving them toward self-sufficiency and financial independence.” I could spend pages and pages talking about experiences similar to this and still feel like I have more to say about my time with SFBFS. From feeding families at a food distribution site to helping prepare for a baby shower at the SFBFS’ North Sacramento facility, my summer has been nothing but beautiful and fruitful.

Just as I can write pages and pages on my experiences in the different programs, I could write a numerous reflections on the life lessons I learned from the remarkable staff; a staff that puts so much of themselves into the work they do. Time and time again I’ve seen the people at SFBFS work not as a corporate structure, but as a family. Just like with any typical family, not everything goes perfectly. Like any loving family, however, the care, joy and love everyone has for each other and the clients they serve has and will continue to inspire me. As Geno pointed out, “If you wake up loving what you do and knowing you’re helping someone, it makes the day worth it.”

I can honestly admit that at the end of each day I volunteered at Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, I could join Geno in saying that each day was truly worth it. 

Submitted by Patrick-Lawrence Bortolome Arguelles, Summer Seminarian Intern from the Diocese of Sacramento


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