The Tale of the Peanut Butter Extravaganza

Once upon a time in a faraway land called Harrisburg, there lived 6 Sycamore House members by the names of Katie, Jess, Sarah, Brigette, Priscilla, and GR.   They were a simple family living together, while creating beautiful community and tending to various service opportunities in their beloved city.  On an ordinary almost-spring day, they happened upon an amazing idea!  What if community dinner turned into a peanut butter extravaganza?  Smiles lit upon their faces as the sheer brilliance of the idea turned into reality. 

“But how?” you might ask.  It just so happens that Katie’s sister Lizzie, is a gourmet peanut butter creator and connoisseur.  That’s right.  She makes her own peanut butter in a whole slew of incredible flavors such as:

Dark Chocolate Thin Mint

Dark Chocolate Raspberry

White Chocolate

Gingerbread

Irish Cream

English Toffee

White Chocolate Coconut Date

Smore’s

 And many more! 

Finally, Tuesday came.  The fruit was cut.  The bread was sliced.  The peanut butter came. 

And then the door bell rang. 

Again. 

And again.

And again. 

Success!!!  Their peanut butter extravaganza became a beautiful reality full of deliciousness and heartfelt community. 

People ate together, laughed together, and listened to each other’s stories underneath the warm glow of party lights and bellies full of peanut butter.

And they all lived happily ever after.

The end! 🙂

~ Katie

Sycamore House Cocktail Party

Friday evening our house was filled with Sycamore House board members,  alumni, work site supervisors, and future internship partners. There was a magnitude of beer, wine,  and plates of fancy hors d’oeuvres. A fun time was had by all, with conversation and laughter finding its way into our time of fellowship. Sycamore House member Katie Cobb, along with her site supervisor, talked about the excellent work that Katie has accomplished, a testament to the great things happening this year through our program.

Wednesday Nights: Holy Chaos

 

During our year at the Sycamore House, in addition to our jobs, weekly group service projects, and community dinners, we also commit to one aspect of community life at St. Stephen’s Cathedral.  For several of us in the house this year, that commitment to St. Stephen’s happens on Wednesday evenings during a children’s program called Wonderful Wednesdays.

Wonderful Wednesdays are unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced, and the best way I can describe what happens during this program is to call it “holy chaos.”

The program has been growing throughout the year, and we’re now up to about 25 kids from Kindergarten through 5th grade who join us every week! What started last school year as a program that brought kids from the Cathedral and school communities (there’s a pre-K through 8th grade private day school at St. Stephen’s) has grown to one that now includes those children’s friends from other schools and churches, as well as others kids from all over the Harrisburg community.  It’s pretty incredible to see the relationships they form by coming week after week: kids from different racial, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds come together to eat dinner, sing in the children’s choir, hear Bible stories, and play together.

There are many differences between them, but the thing they all have in common is this: they’ve all spent the whole day sitting in a desk at school.  Most of them even come straight to us from after school care. They’ve been in a structured environment all day, and so by the time they get to Wonderful Wednesday… well, they’re tired of rules and structure, and things can get a little bit wild, to say the least!

Wednesday nights are never perfect, and there are usually some frustrations and broken rules, and often some tears and hurt feelings (followed by apologies).  I’ve never come away from the night without being completely exhausted.  But I’ve also never come away without sharing many laughs, smiles, and hugs with the kids and the other volunteers.  Love, joy, grace, forgiveness—all of these things abound at Wonderful Wednesdays!  On the more exhausting nights, when we spend more time than usual chasing around rogue 2nd graders, or when we spend more time getting settled for story time than it takes to actually tell the story,  my housemates and I joke about whether or not “wonderful” is really such an appropriate word for what happens there.  But it is the patience and the love that makes this program such a favorite among the kids and, truthfully, among the volunteers as well.  In this way, Wonderful Wednesdays are a consistently humbling experience for me.  The nights never go perfectly according to plan, and no matter what creative behavior management tactics we employ, they never will.  But perfection really isn’t the goal of Wonderful Wednesdays, or of anything we do this year.  The goal is to show the love of God to the people we have promised to serve—and attempting to show that perfect love is as close to perfection as we can get.  And if we’re measuring the success of our program in love, then the holy chaos we call Wonderful Wednesdays are truly wonderful indeed!

 

For a taste of what Wonderful Wednesdays are like, watch the video of the children’s choir below :]

 

–Sarah Rathbun

Philly Adventures!

Saturday, January 18 the Sycamore House ventured out into the City of Brotherly Love…and it was awesome. We attended mass at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, enjoyed a home-cooked brunch at the Servant Year St. Mark’s house, and then explored the city with our fellow ESC members and a few Franciscan Volunteer Ministry members. We had an exciting day seeing the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Reading Terminal Market, and a much-needed visit to Shake Shack. It was truly a blessed day getting to know other servants in Christ.

Holy Fools

One of the many perks to being the Program Director of the Sycamore House is that I get to work both inside and outside of the church.  Since all our Corps Members are placed in organizations within the city, part of my job involves getting to know people at our different work sites.  Admittedly,  “getting to know” people at the different sites often means sending multiple emails back and forth until you and a Corps Member’s site supervisor can land on a time to meet that is several months away.  But, it is definitely worth it!

Meetings with our site supervisors rarely take place in an office.  Visits to the Joshua Group often involve a trip to the classrooms where Gabe is being pulled along by several three-year-old children.   Visits to Paxton Ministries always involves lunch in the dining hall, where the entire staff (including the executive director) and the residents all gather to share a meal every day.  At Capital Area Head Start, I know that Katie’s supervisor and I will get side-tracked in a million different ways as we discuss education challenges in the city.  There’s never a tidy border between our meeting and the other activities of the organization.

Though I often chalk this up to “that’s just the nature of community work,” I think it’s a little deeper than that.  I think our site supervisors are a little nuts.  They work well over 40 hours a week, they can’t possibly get enough sleep (I often receive 2am email responses) and the boundaries between their personal and professional lives seem entirely too porous.  Maybe “nuts” isn’t the word– maybe it’s committed and passionate.  But, still a little crazy right?

This past Sunday, Jodie Smiley, the executive director of Paxton Ministries visited our church and spoke about her work at Paxton Ministries.  As she told us about the residents at Paxton, her eyes lit up as she brought us into her world.  It’s clear that she is dedicated to what she does– so dedicated that she gave up her Sunday morning to talk to us about it!

Obviously, individuals tend to commit to something that they believe in.  That’s certainly true for our community partners.  But, I think they believe in their causes because they see something the rest of us don’t always see.  Throughout Scripture, there are references to “holy fools” — the ones who don’t operate quite like the rest of us.  The ones who dare to imagine new life in places of despair and hopelessness, the ones who see abundance while the rest see scarcity.   The ones who proclaim resurrection in the face of crucifixion. And to the rest of the world, these people look crazy. There’s Hannah, the mother of Samuel, who is dismissed by the priest at the temple because he thinks she is drunkenly rambling.  (Spoiler alert: She’s saying this gorgeous prayer).  There’s the prophets (who mostly proclaim hopelessness and despair when others see only hopefulness and prosperity).  There’s Jesus, of course, who is always creating an upside down world through his words and stories.  There’s his disciples, many of whom physically gave their lives to the firm conviction that Christ was crucified and rose again.

And even now, there are people all over the world that dare to live their lives devoted to causes that many of us deem foolish or futile.  Of course, not all of our community partners are faith-based, but that doesn’t make them any less holy. There are plenty of holy fools out there today and I am lucky enough to work with a few of them.  Thankfully, our Corps Members are catching just a bit of their foolishness too.

Peace,

Emmy

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Sycamore House-style)

Something to bring you an extra ounce of holiday cheer! : )

 

On the first day of Christmas

my housemates sent to me:

Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the second day of Christmas

my housemates sent to me:

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the third day of Christmas

my housemates sent to me:

3 fist bumps

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the fourth day of Christmas

my housemates sent to me:

4 ‘what-up, son?’ ’s

3 fist bumps

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the fifth day of Christmas

my housemates sent to me

5 painted toes

4 ‘what-up, son?’ ’s

3 fist bumps

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the sixth day of Christmas

my housemates sent to me:

6 mates-a-chatting

5 painted toes

4 ‘what-up, son?’ ’s

3 fist bumps

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the seventh day of Christmas

my housemates sent to me:

7 piles of laundry

6 mates-a-chatting

5 painted toes

4 ‘what-up, son?’ ’s

3 fist bumps

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the eighth day of Christmas

my housemates sent to me:

8 stacks of dishes

7 piles of laundry

6 mates-a-chatting

5 painted toes

4 ‘what-up, son?’ ’s

3 fist bumps

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the ninth day of Christmas

my housemates sent to me:

9 movie viewings

8 stacks of dishes

7 piles of laundry

6 mates-a-chatting

5 painted toes

4 ‘what-up, son?’ ’s

3 fist bumps

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the tenth day of Christmas

my housemates sent to me:

10 dinner outings

9 movie viewings

8 stacks of dishes

7 piles of laundry

6 mates-a-chatting

5 painted toes

4 ‘what-up, son?’ ’s

3 fist bumps

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas

My housemates sent to me:

11 service projects

10 dinner outings

9 movie viewings

8 stacks of dishes

7 piles of laundry

6 mates-a-chatting

5 painted toes

4 ‘what-up, son?’ ’s

3 fist bumps

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas

My housemates sent to me:

12 acts of worship

11 service projects

10 dinner outings

9 movie viewings

8 stacks of dishes

7 piles of laundry

6 mates-a-chatting

5 painted toes

4 ‘what-up, son?’ ’s

3 fist bumps

2 candy bowls

and Superman sitting in his seat

 

Merry Christmas to all! Disclaimer: Gifts 1-5 may be of more relevance to the inhabitants of the Sycamore House. ; )

-Priscilla

Top 10 Reasons Why I Love the Sycamore House

#10.

There’s always something to do; whether it’s Wonderful Wednesday, choir, grocery shopping, or Community Dinner.

#9.

It’s like college, without the classes.

#8.

We can look out the window & have the most perfect view of the Susquehanna River.

#7.

We sometimes sit at the dining room table & binge on large quantities of ice cream.

#6.

We can vent to each other at random moments.

#5.

We manage to pull off Tuesday night dinners together without fail, with laughter & grace.

#4.

Our views & experiences are different, yet we get along like family.

#3.

We are a family.

#2.

A guitar & a voice can start an impromptu sing-along.

#1.

Our needs always seem to be taken care of in the most unexpected ways by people who have no reason to care, but somehow still do.

I love this house.

–Brigette Barto

Thanks for the laughs!

If I have come to know anything here at the Sycamore House, it’s that there is seldom a dull moment.  Whether it be cockroaches or finding that strange orange substance in the back of the fridge, you know your day is going to be interesting and full of laughs.  And that’s something beautiful to be full of isn’t it?

In fact just this week, we were coming back from the fabulous Wegman’s after a signing for the prestigious children’s lit author/illustrator Jan Brett.  It was a long wait, let me tell you.  After 3 hours (my housemates waited two hours – that’s love right there), we were eager to get back to our comfy couches for a delightful evening of movies.  Somehow, leaving Wegman’s turned into a race… at least in some people’s minds it was a race.

Sarah and I left in one car, Jess and Brigette left in the other.  Now Sarah and I, being not quite as competitive, decided to take a snapshot of Jan Brett’s Travel Bus to win a free poster if posted on Facebook.  At this point, we thought the other two were far ahead of us.  As Jess would say: False.  They were right behind us the whole time.  So there we were, Sarah and I cruising down Carlisle Pike with absolutely no concept that we were still in a race.

As we approached the intersection to get on route 15, however, the game changed as I turned onto the opposite side of the median.  Stunned silence turned into, “OH MY GOSH WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!”  Well somehow, I thought my little Saturn could handle going back over the median.  I mean it handled plenty of Harrisburg curbs in my attempts to parallel park right?  False again.  Now we were stuck.

Thankfully, a very nice man pulled over to help me reverse and direct us to the Right Aid.  It all happened just in the nick of time – we heard sirens in the distance as a tow truck slowly passed by.

When we caught our breath from the rush of excitement, we made a beautiful vow of secrecy to not tell the others of my driving mishap.  “Don’t tell Jess!” I exclaimed in embarrassment.  “Don’t tell Brigette either!  Or GR – not even Priscilla!” Sarah heartily agreed.  No one would know.

Except everyone did know because they were behind us the whole time.  In a flurry of competition and vigor, Brigette had sailed past in her little green car with a, “Haha Suckers!”

When we all got back to the house, Sarah and I tried to play it off – but that didn’t last.  Sitting at the dining room table, the room lit with laughter as we told each other’s stories.  We giggled at my mishap with more giggles of Brigette’s comment.  An ordinary Thursday?  Nothing is ever ordinary in this house.  Thank you to all my dear comrades here at the Sycamore House for keeping it interesting.  Thank you for the adventures thus far and the ones to come – but thank you most of all for your laughter.