The Jesuit priest Fr. Greg Boyle wrote that Intention is the most powerful ability that human beings have. We decide to be tender. We arrive at the clear intention to be tender and it catapults us our of our default mode, which is self-absorption.
When we began The Center in Asbury Park 30 years ago it was with the intention of “providing support service to people with HIV/AIDS”. We would work to find ways to do this: meals, help with rent and utilities, transportation. But in searching for ways to help, we created a place where people could be tender. A place was built where tenderness is practiced and tenderness is the tending to the other.
The people we would serve are not simply people with HIV disease or people who are poor. They are God’s people who for many reasons have become disconnected. Life has been harsh for them and they can so easily forget that at the base of it they are God’s children. For the most part the activity of being tender, of practicing tenderness, is helping people to reconnect themselves to a belief that they are valuable – they are lovable – they are good.
Throughout our thirty years we have had so many wonderful volunteers who by simply serving a hearty meal or listening to a client’s story have in fact healed a hurt, mended a wound. The Center has provided a place where countless volunteers have been able to practice tenderness – have been able to make people more whole.