An American Millennial feels more comfortable setting up a Kiva loan to a farmer in Kenya than bringing chicken soup to a neighbor.
That provocative line is stolen straight from a Harvard Divinity School report by Angie Thurston and Casper ter Kuile called “How we Gather.” It is really about social change, particularly as it relates to Millennials, community and God. Other morsels include:
- Most millennials are “unaffiliated,” meaning they don’t attend a place of worship or consider themselves to be religious. So there has been this paradigmatic shift from an institutional to a personal understanding of spirituality.
- The virtual community trumps the real one. (Kiva loan vs. chicken soup)
- The lack of deep community is keenly felt. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth. As traditional religion struggles to attract young people, millennials are looking elsewhere with increasing urgency.
It strikes me that this hunger for purpose and community has implications for many of us and certainly for us here at the Capital Area Food Bank, where we engage 26,000 volunteers to distribute 44 million pounds of food to 540,000 men women and children. Increasingly, many of these are 20 and 30-somethings who came to DC to make a difference, just as I once did.
Many of those plan to be here for just a few years, and leave their emotional connection to place in their home town.
Enter the Food Bank.
How can we, should we do this work in a way that builds and strengthens community – for both the giver and the receiver. And how do we think about and talk about the spiritual aspect of serving, of providing food in a way that resonates?
The Capital Area Food Bank was founded by the faith-based community. And most of our 444 partners through whom we provide 44 million pounds of food to men women and children in the community are churches, synagogues and mosques. But as the new generation rises, they are approaching service differently.
Our work – like much church work – “encourages friendship, promotes neighborhood welfare and spreads messages for the betterment of individuals and society,” to borrow again from the report. How do we think about developing a volunteer experience that provides lasting community. We are actually bringing lots of chicken soup to lots of folks who need it. How do we build the human connection as work to build a better world? How do we talk about the spiritual aspect of this work? How do we think about the work in terms of personal and social transformation?
We are thinking about how to think about this. Feel free to shoot me a note. @nancyroman1