In a land where winter reigns supreme, there is a white, fluffy product known only to New Englanders: fluff. The peanut butter and fluff, or as the locals call it, fluffernutter, sandwich is a regional delicacy. I am proud to admit that I have perfected this formula, through my countless Thursday afternoons preparing the inimitable fluffernutter. These nutty and sugary delights are a symbol of the St. Louis Project, an outreach ministry of presence for Boston’s homeless at my school.
Each Thursday afternoon we congregate in the cafeteria to construct our culinary masterpiece. I have learned the perfect fluff-to-nut ratio. I can spread the condiments with ease—although our utensils are quite flimsy. I flip the two halves together flawlessly. We take our wonderful, little treats to the Boston Common, where we share food and, most importantly, conversation.
The fuffernutter leads us outside of South Station, where we find a veteran with an amputated leg. I kneel down and ask, “Do you know anyone who would like a sandwich?” He motions to his ears as if he does not hear me, so I lean in and ask him a little louder. Then I see his sign; this vet is amputated, homeless and deaf. I motion, with my hands, the act of eating a sandwich, and he accepts our humble token of our gratitude for his service to our country. The universal symbol of a sandwich brings us together, and as we leave he mouths a powerful “God Bless you.”
The single most important thing I have learned through my religious education is how to use my faith in my life. I believe that one who is informed about his or her religion cannot be content by staying within him or herself. One must act and show faith through love. Jesus tells us to feed those who are hungry; clothe those who are naked; visit the sick; welcome the outcast. Education is training and preparation for the future. A religious education trains you to be a Christian. I’ve learned about the Gospels and Catholic Social Teaching and various injustices in the world. All these lessons have prepared me to go out into the world and serve my brothers and sisters. Whether it is in an operating room, a board room, a classroom, or even the Boston Common, a religious education not only prepares students to be successful in the real world, but to act as Christ taught us.
One more sandwich left. Outside the bus terminals near the station, we see a large man on crutches, wearing a Marine’s shirt. We offer our creamy, sticky treat as an icebreaker and begin to talk. His name is Shannon. He served in the Marines for twelve years and witnessed the death of his two friends from an explosive device that also fractured his legs. After this horrific incident took place in Afghanistan this past January, Shannon was sent back to the states and given medical treatment; he has been out on the streets since. Shannon has slipped through the cracks of our government’s VA system. He has not yet received disability. After twelve years of service, he does not get compensation from the government. Despite his pains, the fluff allows us to come close together; we connect through the Patriots and the presidential election. We, as Greg Boyle S.J. says, “situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.” We grow together as people in compassion all because of a peanut butter and fluff sandwich.
The St. Louis Project was founded by Alex Braun, David Coletti, Paul Howard, and Trevor Schramn, of the BC High class of 2013. The St. Louis Project hopes to increase awareness of the human dignity of the homeless, hungry, and impoverished within our community, importantly advocating respect and love for our brothers and sisters in need. The St. Louis Project is both an interactive and spiritual project, in that it not only entails direct service work but through reflection and building lasting relationships with the individuals we encounter and serve we are living out the mission of BC High to create leaders of “competence, conscience, and compassion,” – “men and women with and for others.”