When I arrive at the back door of the United Church, Jane is already on the step with a snow shovel. She has opened the door for the two Social Justice committee members who have preceded me with supplies for the Community Supper. Now, she will clear the few centimetres of wet snow that have accumulated in the parking lot and on the steps. Sidewalk + snow + Jane + people coming = Jane shovelling now. Whatever needs to be done, she will do.
The committee gets to work. We have an hour before people start to arrive, and a half-hour more before the buffet line opens. The menu is simple but hearty, I hope: chili, salad, buns, and cookies. Dave makes coffee, Jackie and Gerard cover the tables with paper tablecloths, Elmer chases down extra buns and paper towels, and I do triage on the buffet table. Jane orients us to this unfamiliar kitchen. She points to the appropriate coffee urns, suggests eight tea bags for twenty-five cups of tea, finds a huge bowl for the salad, and locates the salt and pepper. Later, after a foray in the dining hall to arrange buns, stack coffee and juice cups, and place the dessert trays, I notice that Jane is still in the kitchen cleaning up as we go. She is another pair of hands, even when her own parish is not responsible for the Community Supper this month.
Jane’s ethic of service inspires me, and I want to acknowledge it aloud. “Thank you for everything you are doing, Jane,” I say. “You’re really going above and beyond.” Her response stops me in my tracks. Her hands in the sink, Jane locks eyes with me and says, “There’s no beyond for Christians, is there? We are always called to go beyond.”
I am flummoxed. She is right, of course. There is no beyond for a Christian. “Above and beyond” is another phrase I will relegate to obsolescence. The mission of Christians is always to reach beyond our strength, beyond our perceived available time, beyond our resources, beyond pressure from the outside (and often, from the inside, too!), beyond the distractions life brings, in service to others, those right beside us in our family and community and those far away. Our lives must embrace all in a circle with an infinite radius and an effaced circumference.
There is no beyond. Thank you, Jane; you evangelize through action. Thank you for leading the way on the extra mile.