The Ripple Effect of Care
By Paige Orscheln
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Each morning I take a moment and pray for Christ to work through me, that I may be an instrument for others to encounter Jesus that day.
As a housing counselor, my job description includes working with people on budgeting, learning about and managing credit, and organizing their finances – all with the goal of securing or saving their homes. On the surface level, these goals are pretty straightforward, but equally important to me to the what of housing counseling is the how of this work. And for me, that includes continually incorporating the Catholic Social Teachings that Catholic Charities is founded on into my everyday work. While we never proselytize at Catholic Charities, I know that every interaction I have with a client is another chance to be the “hands and feet” of Christ to them.
So, it’s a practice of mine to take a moment at the end of the day to think about the people I’ve encountered in my work and think about how I may have shown care and compassion to them as Christ would. I pray for that to create a ripple effect in their life. I pray that, in their growing security or progress toward their goals, they can then show Christ to someone one else, and someone else, and someone else.
That was precisely how I had planned on Christ “showing up” in my work at Catholic Charities.
What I never expected was how the people I serve happen to show me the true heart of Christ, time and time again.
Housing counseling can be a very vulnerable process, so I make sure to take the first step in honoring my clients by getting to know them as unique individuals with gifts and talents, created in God’s own image and likeness. I really enjoy getting to know them on a personal level, building trust and conveying the “judgement-free zone” atmosphere of our work together. That’s helped us keep our time as open, honest, and safe as possible. And it’s in these moments of honesty – and vulnerability – that my clients share their hearts and reflect Christ back to me.
We oftentimes go about our days quick to judge – but I enter into my work by recognizing that each of us cannot be reduced to the situations we find ourselves in. The Life and Dignity of the Human Person is a teaching that helps me see beyond the financial struggle someone may be experiencing into who they are as an individual, a child, a parent, a grandparent.
From that place, I’ve seen that many people I work with are not in a financially vulnerable situation because they were irresponsible or greedy, but because they are often supporting others from a place of generosity, forgoing their own security to help family members or friends who may also be struggling. Like the grandmother who faces the very real possibility of losing her home because she’s spent the little income she has on helping with groceries for her children and grandchildren. Like the parents who forgo not only luxuries, but necessities, making hard choices to keep food on the table and gas in the car to get back and forth to work.
These situations always prompt me to stop and think: what would I do in their shoes? How much would I be willing to sacrifice my comfort for someone else’s? What about my needs?
Most of the time clients do not share their financial hardship with the loved ones they are helping because they do not want to burden them. Instead, they simply give in quiet and have fully made the decision that they are willing to sacrifice their entire livelihood for someone else. It is in those moments that I feel like I am sitting across the table with Christ. These encounters have completely reshaped my perspective.
Most Americans are one crisis or disaster away from financial instability – instability that can quickly escalate from choosing which bill to pay to losing their home. I think about that, how easily I could be in my clients’ shoes, and how difficult it would be to navigate that on my own. Could I be as generous as they are? Would I be as humble and kind as they are?
I see Christ working through my coworkers at Catholic Charities, having encounters just like these every day with clients, visitors, supporters, and community partners. I’ve felt a deepening awareness of Christ’s presence in this work. I will add each of our readers this week to my prayers as well, may we each pray to encounter Jesus in others throughout our day, to be an instrument of love, to serve others well, and to create those ripples of care that flow out in the world.
Paige Orscheln is a HUD-Certified Housing Counselor for Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri. April is National Financial Capability Month, but Catholic Charities provides services and programs year-round to help neighbors find financial stability and freedom through financial wellness. From HUD-certified housing counseling, to payday loan relief, to replenishing critical grocery dollars back into family budgets with the client-choice model Catholic Charities Food Pantry, Catholic Charities seeks to serve “the whole person” with the help they need to create lasting change in their lives and in their family trees.
Photo: HUD-Certified Housing Counselor, Paige Orscheln, shares resources on securing housing, renting, home-buying, and more with visitors of the Second Annual Community Resource Fair in March of 2023. Catholic Charities is one of only two agencies providing HUD-Certified Counseling Services across the 38-counties in the Diocese of Jefferson City.