It should have been a deeply satisfying experience. Every Saturday morning, a group from my branch Church of Christ, Scientist, rolled up our sleeves with our Episcopalian friends down the street as part of a community breakfast program for people in need. The spread of food was impressive. Scrambled eggs, fresh-squeezed orange juice, pastries donated by a local bakery. The volunteers were thrilled to be providing our guests with the kind of meal they didn't usually get to eat. And our guests—many of them homeless, jobless, lonely—certainly seemed pleased to be there.
But the warm feelings I got from these breakfasts quickly disappeared once I left the church. I couldn't help but wonder if our efforts really made any significant difference in the lives of our guests. I knew some of these people wouldn't eat for another few days. Some would sleep on the streets, or on rooftops. Some would seek out alcohol and drugs. So what was the point?
After a while I realized that while I'd been very much involved with the do-goodism of this program, I really hadn't done much thinking about it from a spiritual perspective. One Saturday, tired of feeling down, I finally got it. The question shifted to: "What can I know spiritually about others, and how can I pray to see everyone as God sees them?"