This I Believe

Bethany - Allendale, Michigan
Entered on February 10, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I Believe In Foot Washing

Foot washing is what de-stresses me. It’s the dirty work. It’s what most people don’t enjoy doing. It makes my nose crinkle up, makes my furrows sweat, and leaves me tired, content, and elated with purpose. When I scrub a neglected bathroom until it sparkles, or stain a dry and weathered deck, I can see the change that my hands have enacted. I believe foot washing is a gift.

Foot washing requires that I touch something worn out and tired. Like the frail, the fluffy handed, or maybe even the down-right cranky, the foot that I wash might be sensitive and vulnerable, or calloused and cold. Either way, a hot soak and a tender thought could mean a lot to someone. I know that they mean a lot to me. Sometimes I need my feet washed too.

Foot washing is caring for something that is not perfect. My good friend once told me that “you can only appreciate a perfect face for about three minutes. After that, there’s nothing more to notice. Imperfect faces, are what’s truly beautiful,” she said. “You might study one, might love one your whole life and not grow tired of it.” When I consider the crooked noses, bushy brows and pockmarked cheeks that are often dear to me, much like the thick dry skin, the awkward nails, and the lint that I believe in washing, I believe she must be right.

It occurred to me that foot washing must be the great equalizer. It is a humbling act for the foot washer and the foot washed. The activity itself demands care and trust. It says “I want to do something unusual for you. I’m not afraid of touching you. We’re made of the same stuff, you and I. I care for you no matter who you are or what your shoes smell like.”

My husband and I washed each other’s feet at our wedding. I might have liked to wash everyone’s feet that day if there was time and if I wasn’t convinced that I would be met with great resistance. Sometimes I wonder what a little more foot washing in my life could accomplish. I think I too would be reluctant if someone else offered to wash my feet. With all of its shocking, sobering, and thoughtful qualities, there’s still something that warns me to maintain dignity. I recognize my lack of opportunities for washing feet, but for the sake of every possibility of a genuine connection, I will still proclaim: I do believe in foot washing.