This I Believe

April - South Bend, Indiana
Entered on January 3, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: love
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“Shampooing the Mouse” – April Lidinsky,

I believe in learning to shampoo the mouse. Let me explain: I’m not talking about just any mouse; I myself have learned to shampoo my daughter’s much-beloved pet mouse, Dash, who now requires a daily medicinal bubble-bath, on account of the mange.

I know, I know – don’t bother rolling your eyeballs. I’ve suffered all the derision I need about the hours I’ve devoted to nursing a mangy rodent. But the effort I’ve put in to developing just the right touch to secure this slippery brown critter in my fingertips without squeezing the breath out of him is, I’d argue, a rare glimpse of my very best self. Picture the forlorn, shivering shrivel of a wringing-wet schnauzer, and double the self-pity – no, triple it – and you’ve got a hint of the sadness of a sopping mouse. Add some bubbles between the twitching ears, and imagine the deftness necessary to pull off a full-body medicinal massage of a being the size of your thumb, and you can understand my pride. The effort is worth it, afterward, when I cup him in my palm and rub him dry with the corner of the towel … and, I swear to you, this tiny being leans into the soft terrycloth, his shining eyes narrowing with pleasure as he basks in my warmth and care. See what I mean? I am my best self in those moments, with the mouse sheltered in my hands and my daughter leaning over my shoulder, blanketing both of us with concern.

I think of this as my Ministry of the Mundane – and I’ll bet you could name some things you do that are like shampooing a mouse. Perhaps it’s carrying a hot mug of coffee over to your beloved when part of you thinks, “Whatsa matter, your legs broke?” Or maybe it’s leaving the mushrooms you love out of a lasagne because it will make someone else’s fork a little more lovely with every bite. Maybe it’s turning down the covers, or tucking in a blanket, or lingering at a bedside for a few quiet moments when you really just want to get back to your email or the bad TV show that’s obliterating the memory of your workday. Maybe your Ministry of the Mundane involves biting your tongue – not saying to an elderly relative,“You asked me that a few minutes ago!” Perhaps the most we can do is what may at first seem the least. That’s what Harriet Beecher Stowe had in mind over 150 years ago when she wrote, “To be really great in little things, to be truly noble and heroic in the insipid details of everyday life, is a virtue so rare as to be worthy of canonization.”

I have always loved the phrase “small wonder.” What small wonders are you accomplishing already in your daily, mundane ministry? To put it another way, what mouse are you shampooing? Here’s to more of the same; maybe I’ll see you at the sink.