The Spirit of Georgetown calls to us through learning and faith, but also service, a key pillar in both the Jesuit heritage of our institution and the values of Ignatian Pedagogy. Experience is a key factor in Ignatian Pedagogy, and thus service can and does play a role in a learning environment focused on the whole person, while also looking outward into the community.
With that in mind, 28 CNDLS staff volunteered at the D.C. Central Kitchen on October 2, 2019. The innovative and transformative space provides not only food for the local homeless population, but also plays an active role in reducing local food waste, provides job training to the homeless to offer them a fresh start, prepares fresh food to local schools, and actively addresses the issue of food deserts.
In this new and, for most of us, unfamiliar environment, we became students, amateurs once again. In Ignatian Pedagogy, the first consideration is the context of the learner, a position that we were able to experience and embody through this experience. Our traditional roles as “experts” were reversed, as we learned about proper safety and kitchen etiquette (as well as how to use very, very sharp knives). Our tasks were in some ways mundane – peeling and cutting, assembling ingredients, stocking containers – but were essential in order to maintain a proper functioning system, in order to feed the hungry.
From the outside, it may have looked chaotic, but in fact it was a well-choreographed and practiced routine, with regular staff moving around us, washing, prepping, moving, and making sure we stayed on our task, so that what was required next could happen at the exact right time. We worked largely in contemplative silence, focused on our task (and not cutting ourselves with the knives), listening to the different and unfamiliar rhythms of this new environment.
There is no task too small or mundane as to be unimportant, and there are always spaces where your expertise and experience matter less than your willingness to learn. We want to remember this when we are teaching our students, and we sometimes need to be reminded. Our experience at the D.C. Central Kitchen was a valuable lesson in the values of The Spirit of Georgetown and Ignatian Pedagogy.
Want to get involved?
If you would like to support the D.C. Central Kitchen or volunteer, please visit their website.