Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wash, dry, fold, help

Our church participates in a program called Room at the Inn, where once a month we host families who are struggling with homelessness. It's temporary, emergency shelter. We have a spacious youth house next to our church, and a huge team of volunteers from our parish serve as hosts and hostesses each month. The guests are served a meal and given a clean, comfortable place to stay. Room at the Inn offers many, many other resources to these families, and our church has been a Night Site for years. Every month in the parish bulletin I would see the long list of names of people who selflessly give of their time and energy. I thought about helping, but I didn't feel like I could commit to anything. How could I give up such a large block of time when I work full time and have an incredibly active family?

And then I learned of a need that I could fulfill: laundry.

After each night we host, there are loads of dirty laundry. Sheet sets and comforters for four or five beds, towels and wash clothes, table cloths. Laundry is pretty easy to do, and can be done on any schedule. So I signed up.

This is my third time doing laundry for RATI. I pick up big laundry bags outside the youth house the morning after our guests spend the night, haul them home, sort, wash, dry, fold, and deliver them back for the next round of guests.

Just to clarify: I love doing laundry so this isn't really a penance for me. I mean I love doing laundry. Some people like to mow their lawn, some people like to vacuum. No one I know likes to clean toilets, but you get my drift. Laundry is my thing. I love seeing mounds of dirty cloths go in and come out clean and fresh and neatly folded. It's cathartic. It's the easiest way I know to get a feeling of accomplishment. I have even mastered folding fitted sheets so they look nice.

I picked up this month's RATI laundry this morning and am two loads in. I'm working from home this morning while the plumber fixes a couple toilets, so I'm ahead of the game. The dryer beeps and I take a break and fold sheets, saying a prayer for the person who slept in them last night and thanking God that my circumstances are far more fortunate and that I am able to help in this way. My only regret is that I didn't know I could help until late last year.

So my charge to you today, dear readers, is to look around and see where you can help. Dig into details. Ask questions. I stumbled on my laundry gig while going through formation for a retreat with another RATI volunteer. She talked about the program and mentioned that she needed volunteers to handle the laundry the next month when she was serving as captain. I jumped all over it. I know what I'm doing pales in comparison to our wonderful volunteers like my friend who make and serve meals and stay the night with our guests, listening to their stories or just providing companionship. I'm a behind-the-scenes worker bee, and I'm fine with that right now. I can stay up all night doing laundry or throw in a load between all my other tasks. I'm just happy I can help in my own small way, and I'm happy that my name is on that list of people Room at the Inn can count on each month. Requests for my services have picked up...I've done the laundry last month and now this, and I couldn't be happier.

Go forth. Serve. Help others, even those (or perhaps especially those) you don't know. Make a difference, no matter how small, even if it's just a load of laundry. Gandhi said "We need not wait to see what others do." What are you waiting for?


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