I believe in washing the dishes. I believe in having suds up to your elbows armed with a yellow bristled brush and enough dirty dishes to keep you entertained for the next thirty minutes. As a child, I found this chore lifeless and occasionally gross. Now as a young adult, this is no longer a chore, but a gift.
This transformation from a chore to a gift happened during the summer I spent volunteering with the Iona Community in Scotland. For eleven weeks I worked in the Abbey housekeeping department where I spent many, many hours up to my elbows in suds. I had been working for nearly six weeks when I found myself, yet again, washing the cups from the morning tea. It just so happened that as I stood over the large industrial sized sink one morning, I realized what I was doing. I wasn’t simply washing dishes, I was creating a space. A space in which people from all different places, all with different histories, came together to share their stories over a cup of hot tea and biscuits. If no one was willing to take the time to wash the dishes from that morning’s tea, then how would those conversations happen again?
Washing the dishes reminds me that everyone needs to serve. Whether that service is found in building a house for Habitat for Humanity or cleaning teacups, everyone is called to serve. Service isn’t simply projects, but actions for the betterment of another.
Washing the dishes reminds me that we all have a role to play. The janitors and housekeepers are the ones that are left unnoticed in our world. However, we would be hard pressed to keep our dorms, our classrooms, or our bathrooms clean without them. Too often it is seen as a lesser occupation, but it is beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the most necessary.
Washing the dishes reminds me that the ordinary is sacred. I always looked for the sacred things in the intricate cathedrals or in the places of status. Now my kitchen sink is an altar and the suds my sanctuary.
I believe in washing the dishes not only because dishes that are left unattended can bring a foul odor, but because washing the dishes takes the mundane and creates a space as an offering to those around us. I believe in washing the dishes because it reminds us that we are part of something larger and because washing the dishes means taking what is considered an ordinary chore and finding within it, a sacred gift.
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