Bread-Dough Faith

Bread-Dough Faith

by Jane Knuth

“Friendliness is the outward effect of charity in the heart. It springs from the heart and shows how very glad you are to be with a particular person…For when someone has joy in her heart, she cannot hide it; you see it clearly on her face.”

–St. Vincent de Paul

Almost all the time, I really enjoy volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul shop. It feels like bread-dough faith, the kind that makes you want to push up sleeves and get both hands into the thick of it.

Considering this affection I have for the work, it was disconcerting when, Elaine, a new acquaintance, decided that volunteering at St. Vinnies would be a good way to practice self-denial for Lent.

“You consider working here a sacrifice?” I asked.

“A sacrifice of my time,” she amended diplomatically.

One of the first tasks we gave her was to help a gentleman who had requested some free clothing. Elaine put aside her penitential intentions and brightened at the assignment. “My husband buys all his clothes from a catalog—I never get to pick out anything for him. This will be fun.”

The gentleman explained that he needed clothes for attending church. He must not have been Catholic because he wanted a blazer, dress pants, collared shirts, dress shoes and neckties. Elaine brought various items to the dressing room for him to try-on, matched the ties to the blazer and shirts, and dug around in the backroom until she found some leather shoes that fit him. He looked great in his carefully selected clothing. Elaine had spent real time with this man and it showed. All finished, she sent him to the front counter for the cashier to tally the items for our records. Afterwards he asked to speak to Elaine again.

She was summoned and he shook her hand and thanked her for all her help.

She told him cheerfully how much she had enjoyed it and said, “Come back again real soon.”

He looked a little startled, then smiled and said, “Thank you. I will.”

After he left, our cashier raised an amused eyebrow at Elaine and said, “We gave him those clothes. Why on earth would you tell him to come back soon?”

It was Elaine’s turn to look startled. Then she laughed at herself. “It was fun,” she said. “I guess I really enjoyed helping him.”

In bread-dough faith, the dough kneads the baker as much as the baker kneads the dough.


Jane Knuth 

Jane Knuth is the author of Thrift Store Saints and Thrift Store Graces. She has been volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the last 17 years. She is also a math tutor. Knuth and her husband, Dean, live in Portage, Michigan.

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Books by Jane Knuth

Thrift Store Saints

Meeting Jesus 25¢ at a Time

Thrift Store Saints is a collection of true stories based on Jane Knuth's experience serving the poor at a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store.

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Thrift Store Graces

Finding God’s Gifts in the Midst of the Mess

Jane Knuth is back with another book full of her experiences serving as a once reluctant, now enthusiastic volunteer at a Saint Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

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Love Will Steer Me True

A Mother and Daughter’s Conversations on Life, Love, and God

Love Will Steer Me True shows how a mother and daughter swerve and weave their way into a new understanding of themselves, of their familial relationship, and of their faith.

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