Editor’s note: This piece was published previously in the Catholic Worker newspaper in New York City. We thought it fit this particular season:

The line for the meals we’ve been serving from the sidewalk outside of St. Joe’s often stretches to the end of the block, and sometimes I’ll peek my head out and see that it’s already forming an hour before we serve. Our friends outside are patient as we prepare to hand out cups of soup, donated sandwiches, snacks, and the most sought-after cup (or two, or three, or seven) of coffee each morning. 

I find myself looking to the winter months with apprehension. What will the cold weather mean for our friends outside, in a moment when indoor public spaces that might provide a warm respite are few and far between? How much more waiting in the cold, damp weather might our own outdoor operation require of those we serve?

Advent is a season of waiting, though our world recognizes time as a valuable commodity, and some are forced to wait more than others. Often, those who are economically disenfranchised end up waiting the most: for public housing, for a life-saving medical treatment, to await trial in jail due to inability to post bail, to be granted asylum through a convoluted legal process. 

The Economic Policy Institute finds that employers steal $8 billion annually from low-wage workers through wage theft, including overtime violations which effectively refuse to honor the established exchange rate of money and time. The disproportionate toll of the pandemic on people of color has shed light on this entanglement of money and time and marginalization with other factors, such as access to information, location, environmental conditions, and education, among countless others.

Right now, we often seem to be in a state of perpetual waiting, in many cases with a horizon that seems hazy and indeterminately distant. We’ve waited for when we can open the houses to guests once again. We’ve waited for the moment we can see friends and family with no fear of infection. We’ve waited through an exhausting election season for a new presidential term. We’ve waited for those in power to hear the voices calling for decisions that radically reimagine what safety looks like in our communities, so that no more Black Americans are murdered at the hands of police.

Waiting often carries the connotation of being a passive process, though the examples of community organizing and action that have emerged over the past months have demonstrated a form of active waiting, one that makes use of the time in limbo.

I’m reminded of the John O’Donohue poem “For the Interim Time”: 

“Do not allow confusion to squander / This call which is loosening / Your roots in false ground, / That you might come free / From all you have outgrown.” 

The current moment has, in many ways, caused our society to reckon with the uprooting that must be done so that new seeds can be sown. The organizing that has happened over the last months has been passionate and creative in channeling the energy of the interim. We’ve seen spirited protests against police brutality, bail funds for those detained for speaking truth to power, efforts of white folks to learn about internalized bias, visionary mutual aid efforts, art that challenges and inspires, celebrations of Black joy, illustrations of what it looks like to keep each other safe, memorials for radical comrades — the list goes on.

This active waiting can also be seen here at Maryhouse and St. Joe’s. We’ve found ways to be creative in how we serve our friends and form new visions of hospitality for our outdoor operation. We’ve discussed the impact our work has on the environment, and once again revived a composting system and discussed how to minimize food waste on the line. We’ve formed new partnerships — like our relationships with World Central Kitchen, Our Saviour Parish in the Bronx, and St. Boniface in Brooklyn, all of which have provided us with meals throughout the pandemic — and adapted longstanding relationships for the current moment, such as that with the Lower East Side chapter of Food Not Bombs, an anarchist collective committed to food justice. We’ve honored friends of the community we’ve lost through memorials and a Mass in the park across the street from St. Joe’s.

One of the most humbling examples of this engaged form of waiting has been that of Martha and Carmen, who have attended to the work of the houses with enthusiasm, even as the thought of impending prison sentences for the King’s Bay Plowshares 7 action lingers. The other day, I ended my morning shift as they began working together to prepare dinner, because the people must be fed and chopping vegetables to feed them is a small joy and a worthwhile use of freedom.

My mind wanders to the line Dorothy Day attributed to her confessor, Fr. Zachary, that “there is no time with God,” mentioned in reference to retroactive prayers for the souls of the dead. I’ve never heard about a line formed at the pearly gates while the paperwork is processed, so maybe a God unrestrained by time has better ways of doing things. This particular form of transcendence feels difficult to grasp for my time-obsessed pea brain, but seeing our interim time as an illustration of the “already but not yet” nature of the Kingdom of God — one that is both here as we build it and still not yet fully realized — feels like a start.

And so we wait, waiting actively, waiting in joyful hope, waiting and working in expectation that what we do in the interim is building the sort of society we seek, perhaps one without DMVs, maybe fewer lines, surely with less anxiety over one’s ability to survive, one where it’s easier to be good, one that is both already and not yet, one that comes into being as we build it.

Annie Moran is a volunteer with St. Joseph House in New York City, a Catholic Worker community.

Join the discussion on social media!