In my office, there are two chairs that sit on the other side of my desk. Sometimes, I will have two people in my office at once, but much more often, there is just one person sitting across from me, and the other chair remains empty. At some point during this year though, I decided that the second chair was never empty. In the second chair sat St. Joseph, calmly taking in the scene, peacefully sitting with my client, listening, better than I could ever listen, to the stories that they told me.
Sometimes clients call asking to speak to José, because they think that this is literally the workshop of someone named José, and I have to tell them no–it’s me who will be seeing them on Thursday at 9. But because of my chair in the corner, and because of what accompaniment means, I like to think that our clients actually do have all of their appointments with José. I like to think that this is literally the workshop of Joseph, because he is here with us.
Joseph’s Workshop is not a store where people go, are offered a transaction, and leave with a product. No, it is a place where something is created, and in this workshop, we create accompaniment with our clients. I have thought about accompaniment so much this year; what it is, where it comes from, what it means—but I think the most important thing about it is that it is not something that one person has and can offer to another, instead, it is a powerful place, a spiritual energy that is created and shared between people. Of course, I believe that Taller de José provides the critical opportunity for accompaniment, but I cannot be a Compañera without my clients. My title, my work here, is not something I can claim as my own, it is something that depends on the effort, resourcefulness, strength and resilience of my clients. It is this cooperation, this team work, that makes us a workshop and not a store, and I believe it is this that invites the spirit of Joseph to sit with me in my office.
Besides Joseph sitting in my chair, another scene will always remain with me as a marker of who we are at Taller de José. I will never forget walking up the stairs, and before my foot had touched the top step, I heard a voice from the office around the corner, “Quieres un tamal?”. Alejandra had gotten to work early, and before even seeing who was walking up the steps, she had offered me a tamal. This year has been just that—unexpected gifts around every corner. I wrote a list of everything I could think of that I have received as gift–not as transaction–here at Taller, and I would like to thank our staff and our community, for all of these things:
- chips with cheese
- ice cream
- pan dulce
- a bike helmet
- ballpoint pens
- fleece sweater
- water bottles
- concert tickets
- an afternoon at the bowling alley
- costume reindeer ears
- bottle of champagne
- coloring book
- hair ties
- letters and cards
- the chance to be a compañera
- tamales, tamales, tamales
Thank you, Taller de José, I only hope I was able to give some of this joy back to you in my time here. I will miss my team of Compañeras and my clients, who made it possible for me to be a Compañera every day. I am forever indebted to this community, that filled my chair with Joseph, and my stomach with tamales.
Written by Katie Wojda (she/her/ella)
Katie is serving at Taller de José as a Compañera through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.