Training Catherine

sweatshirtsCatherine is a fairly new volunteer at the thrift store. I have taken her under my wing to train her in the spiritual path of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. She has a natural concern for the poor, so training her is really a matter of letting her absorb the joy of meeting the people who come into the shop. In almost every situation her heart bends toward compassion, and there is little left for me to teach.

Today she is sorting a bag of donated clothing, holding each article up to the light and looking it over for stains, tears, or missing buttons. She starts to put a sweatshirt onto a hanger, but then reconsiders and removes it. She folds the sweatshirt and puts it into the box for rags instead.

“What made you change your mind?” I ask.

Catherine tips her head sideways, and looks at the shirt again out of the corner of her eye. “It was okay, really. I would have worn it. But yesterday I was driving downtown, and I saw one of our clients walking along the sidewalk. He didn’t look so good. His shirt was too small and his slacks were tattered. I was embarrassed. He comes in here and we give him clothes, and I felt responsible for the way he looked.” She shrugs. “Anyway, when I looked at that sweatshirt just now, I was thinking, do I want our poor people to wear something like this? I decided not. I want our poor people to look as good as possible, and that sweatshirt just was not going to do it.”

I think I’m done training Catherine.


  1. I love knowing that you continue your ministry at the thrift store and that you are passing along your wisdom and sense of compassion to new volunteers

  2. How beautiful! It delights me when I hear “our poor people.” They become people not “the” poor. Catholic social teaching leads us to recognizing the value of each human being who shine as God’s creation. We are poor people, homeless people, successful people; we are also individuals not to be lumped into a class.


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