Category Archives: 2014 Kaitlin Roth

Serving at Saint Anthony Foundation

Wearing Many Faces

After reading Parker Palmer’s “Now I Become Myself” taken from Let your Life Speak I realized something about my past five weeks of service at St. Anthony’s. After my first week of service I was exhausted and upset and deeply saddened, very different from my happy and animated usual self. I thought it was just because I had not acclimated to a new home and workplace, but after five weeks I haven’t felt any different. I kept thinking that I didn’t feel like myself. Then I read the following lines from Mary Sarton’s poem that open Palmer’s text: “I have been dissolved and shaken,/ Worn other people’s faces” (9). This sentence aptly describes my experience at St. Anthony’s thus far. Palmer’s text made me realize that my role at St. Anthony’s has caused me to wear faces that are completely unlike who I usually am. I think of myself as an empathetic person who is hypersensitive to the feelings of the people around me. As a result, I can easily take on the emotions of those I encounter, whether those feelings are of happiness or anger or pain. I came to St. Anthony’s with my heart open to the people I serve, and in doing so I have felt my own usually self become “dissolved and shaken” as Sarton describes. From the people I have met and the stories I have heard I have experienced their trauma secondhand. I feel like I have put on the faces of several of the people I have met and have glimpsed the ways in which they see the world. It has left my heart strained and stretched who I am in ways that are at times very painful.
In light of Palmer’s reading I have realized that my vocation is not in direct service, a realization that is both disappointing and relieving. I am disappointed that I am not meant to serve in a direct capacity, but I am also relieved to learn why I have felt so unlike myself and that it is normal. I have realized that a big part of my service is in my empathy for others and my ability to listen and relieve others by sharing their pain with them without internalizing it in myself. It’s by taking what I see and hear and feel and using it to speak for the people I serve when society chooses to ignore them. I can be who I really am by offering to listen.

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Posted by on July 3, 2014 in 2014 Kaitlin Roth


Halfway at SAF

With the first half of my MICAH summer fellowship almost over I can finally say that I am starting to become acclimated and feel comfortable in the environment at St. Anthony’s. I’ve learned a lot in the few days that I have served, both about the community at St. Anthony’s and about myself. I’ve learned about how the beauty of the Tenderloin—the art murals, the people that live there, the relationships they have with each other—and about the societal ills that blemish it—substance abuse, racism, hunger, poverty, and lack of housing. I’ve learned a lot about the population that inhabits the Tenderloin as well. I’ve learned about the demographics of the population and the stories of the people that make up the population. I’ve learned how tender and generous people can be, and I’ve also seen how agitated and frustrated and scared people can be as well. The Tenderloin exists within its own microclimate in which every slight change affects its people. On a sunny day most people are in a good mood, but if it gets too warm everyone can be on edge. It’s as if the Tenderloin is its own being. And the St. Anthony’s Dining Room is just as malleable. It can go from quiet to bustling to tense to relaxed within the span of a few minutes. At first it was extremely overwhelming for me, but now after four weeks I am getting more comfortable. I have learned that I am stronger than I thought I was. At first it was hard for me to initiate conversation with people I did not know and even harder to keep doing it when people ignored me. It was still harder to face confrontation with the guests; it still fills me with anxiety, but I think I’m slowly getting better. In this I have learned that its never personal. Each person that I interact with has a background that affected how they are able to interact with people and I have to be able to empathize. I think this might be the most important lesson I’ve learned thus far.

            In the last half of the summer fellowship I hope to continue to build relationships and tolearn the stories of the people I interact with. In the first four weeks the people I serve became familiar with me and me with them and know that we have built relationships with each other, I have been fortunate enough to have glimpses into their lives. I hope this continues and deepens in the next four weeks. By hearing stories I hope that I can gather more about the systemic problems that have affect the Dining Room guests and in what ways. I also hope that I can learn more about how I can help them besides listening to their stories. While being a patient and earnest listener is so important for people that have been marginalized and ignored, I want to learn what I can do with the stories I am told and how I can act upon them in the future to pursue the common good.

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Posted by on June 26, 2014 in 2014 Kaitlin Roth



What is Justice?

Michael Sandel argues that justice and the common good are fundamentally linked. He defines the common good as a “concern for the whole” (263). He explores definitions of justice in terms of maximizing utility or welfare, ensuring freedom of choice, and lastly—the definition he favors—cultivating virtue and concern for the common good. In regard to maximizing the welfare of a group Sandel argues that this reduces justice to a calculation so that much of its value is lost.   He states that justice defined by freedom of choice is good in that it takes our fundamental human rights seriously, but fails because it does not force people to question their own choices which affect the quality of the common life we have in a community. He argues that to have a just society, the people that make up the society have to agree on what “the common good” is, and to create an environment in which people can safely and constructively disagree. In fewer words, justice is “about the right way to value things” (261).

            While reading this text the following sentence resonated with me: “If a just society requires a strong sense of community, it must find a way to cultivate in citizens a concern for the whole, a dedication to the common good” (263). I think having a strong sense of community is one of the most important factors in working toward a common good. In a community where people can voice their greatest concerns and opinions about the social issues that affect them, the community can work toward a solution that respects and values each person.

            The parts of the reading that did not resonate with me were the example choices Sandel made when arguing about the faults in freedom of choice. In regard to same sex marriage Sandel states that using the freedom of choice approach is inadequate because it depends on defining marriage. He argues that a decision cannot be made on nonjudgements. The marriage argument ultimately asks what marriages are worthy of honor. While I think that Sandel does not favor freedom of choice because it in a way sidesteps confronting social issues, I do think it is important that the freedom of choice is respected within a community that addresses social issues.

            I found this reading to be relevant to the work that all of the MICAH fellows are doing this summer at their partner organizations because we are all working in some way toward justice and the common good. If common good is concern for the whole then I think my service at St. Anthony’s works to that end. The mission of St. Anthony’s is to provide the marginalized members of the Tenderloin community with the dignity and respect everyone deserves. By listening to their stories and hearing their needs, we are working toward a good for the community.

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Posted by on June 18, 2014 in 2014 Kaitlin Roth



Settling In at St. Anthony’s

As stated on the St. Anthony Foundation webpage: “The mission of St. Anthony Foundation is to feed, heal, shelter, clothe, lift the spirits of those in need, and create a society in which all people flourish.” St. Anthony’s is committed to giving the poor and marginalized in San Francisco the basic human services they need to reclaim personal dignity and stability. The St. Anthony Dining Room was established in 1950 to provide a place where people can be served a meal with dignity and respect. Since then the Dining Room’s services have grown to meet more needs. Service at St. Anthony’s is founded in several basic tenants including healing, community, justice, personalism, and gratitude. Service based on these values allows St. Anthony’s to fulfill their mission to treat every person with dignity and respect and work to eliminate injustice and empower people.

The groups that comprise the staff at St. Anthony’s each have different duties. Guest Services primary duties are in the Dining Room, but we may be asked to help other groups such as Volunteer Services when needed. Guest Services Interns main duties are to provide clients with information, awareness and resources regarding issues that affect them. Most of our work is direct service with the Dining Room guests. This includes asking them how they are doing, getting to know them, and offering services that they may be able to use.

After my first few days on the Dining Room floor I have learned that there is never a routine, and at times it can be very overwhelming. I am still learning all of the procedures I need to follow when I am in the Dining Room and the only way I can really learn them is by asking what to do whenever a certain situation arises, which can be especially nerve racking when the Dining Room is busy and quick service is important. The standard procedures become even more complex when guests with special circumstances come in because we may need to meet their needs in a different way. St. Anthony’s is committed to working with its guests and giving them options to succeed so knowing how to meet their needs is important. As a new intern I also am learning how to interact with the guests that sometimes try to take advantage of my new position by asking for services they know they do not qualify for. This, I know will teach me how to handle confrontation and say no, which are struggles for me. As an introvert I hope that direct contact with up to 2000 people a day will help me learn how to handle my anxiety in stressful situations. I also hope that I will gain more confidence in my work.

During my next seven weeks at St. Anthony’s I will be organizing and running a children’s book collection so that Guest Services can hand out a book to every child that comes to the Dining Room. When school ends for the summer more children visit the Dining Room because they do not have a lunch they would normally have at school. By giving away books to the kids we want to encourage them to read during the summer so that they retain the skills they learned during the school year. I’m really looking forward to beginning this project.

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Posted by on June 11, 2014 in 2014 Kaitlin Roth



First Impressions of St. Anthony’s

My first impression of our Alameda apartment is that it feels warm. In the evenings we hear the kids who live in the neighborhood playing outside and it’s such a nice and welcoming sound to hear. During our first tour of Alameda Point Collaborative’s grounds I was so surprised to learn about all of the different people, opportunities, and programs that are found here. Doug who gave us our first tour was so welcoming and knowledgeable. I love the sustainable practices of the farm and the rest of APC’s programs. I thought that Doug’s explanation of how the farm’s sustainable practices were done using low tech equipment coincided with simplicity—one of the facets of the MICAH experience. Their sustainability demonstrates how we can practice social responsibility without using large amounts of money.

After my first official day as a Guest Services Intern a St. Anthony’s Dining Room my first impression of the space is that it is dynamic and constantly changing from the guests that walk through the doors to the volunteers and staff. There are several different groups that make up the staff at St. Anthony’s including the Coordinators, the Guest Services Interns, the security staff, the social workers, the clinic staff, and the kitchen staff enrolled in the rehabilitation program. Based on my first interactions and observations I noticed that each group has its own dynamic within itself and in relation to the other groups. And each person working there has an interesting story of how they got there and what they bring to the St. Anthony’s community. I’ve found that it feels very much like a family and the staff really care about each other, so to step in as someone new I feel very lucky to already receive that kind of care from everyone. The guests as well each have a story of how they came to St. Anthony’s. Today as I walked around I was able to introduce myself to some of the guests as they ate their meals. I found that many of the people that I met were very willing and excited for me to listen to their stories and for me to ask how they were doing. I’ve met a very diverse group of people in the first few days, and I’m surprised by how diverse the backgrounds of the people St. Anthony’s serve are. Just today I’ve met San Francisco natives, immigrants, a biologist, veterans, grandparents, and children. I’m most excited hear the stories everyone has to share.

My work a St. Anthony’s is already shifting my thoughts and understanding of what simplicity is. I think I would define simplicity not by its physical properties, but rather by distinguishing it from excess. I think we have simplicity when we have a true appreciation of the material and nonmaterial things that we have. We have excess when we lose that sense of appreciation. Simplicity requires being conscious of the things that we have and respecting their value. One of the ways I think we can practice simplicity is by being conscious of the options we have and our privilege in being able to choose what we want to wear or eat or buy and making decisions with this privilege in mind. My initial experiences at St. Anthony’s have shifted my thoughts of simplicity partly because I have found that many of the people I serve do not have the options in their daily lives that I take for granted. One of my duties is to create options for them so that they can have some more control in how they live their daily lives. Realizing this gives me a greater appreciation for the small choices that I can make in my daily life and pushes me to be more conscious of both the material things that I have and the nonmaterial things such as options in how I want to live my daily life. I think the experiences to come in the next seven and a half weeks will further my understanding of simplicity.

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Posted by on June 4, 2014 in 2014 Kaitlin Roth