Another one said, "It can only go up from here, right?" His red eyes and creased brow provided a window into his distress. I think he expected me to leave. I stood next to the washer and waited. "I just got evicted from my storage facility. It's the third one. They don't want the homeless there. I think I'm just going to take all of my stuff and sell it at the swap meet." This is frequently how the story goes. It starts with a streak of bad luck or bad decisions and one failure leads to another, taking with it more and more of their self-esteem. Pretty soon people start seeing themselves the way other people see them, unwanted and without value. He swallowed hard. "Thanks for listening. And thanks for this. You don't now how much it helps."
Paul, one of our regulars, the one with the fanciful backpack, stuffs laundry in a machine in his usual abrupt way. One month he came and got into a fight with someone and left. The next month, he came back and apologized. He's been a model LaundryLove citizen since. "You guys do a good thing here," he told me. "Thank you so much." And there you have it. Those little moments of love among the laundry.
In our introduction, we warn our volunteers to not leave their bag of quarters lying around. Between you and me, I've done it. Every time, it is where I left it or it's been returned by a guest. I still don't advise it because I think I've partially been lucky. But it's also how things are between friends. There's mutual respect. We know one another.
In my everyday life, I'm a psychologist. I've seen lots of hurting people and I've been privileged to watch them get better. I'm convinced that it's not just my amazing skill that facilitates the process. What I have seen more than anything is that it is infinitely more healing to listen and care. Without that, people could have read the latest self help book and gotten better on their own. It's like that at LaundryLove. We could stand on a corner, offering money for groceries, a meal, and laundry. We could do that and never know their face or their stories. They would probably not remember ours. But these people, we know them. They are our friends. They are ours and we theirs.
This past month, a camper that had been parked in the WalMart parking lot caught fire. Someone drove it to a spot where it wouldn't harm anyone else. A woman inside of it died. I asked Shannon if she knew if the woman was one of ours. "Yes, by association." I guess the truth is they are all "one of ours."
If you want to join us, come on down. Second Wednesday of every month at the Laundromat on the corner of Beach and Garfield in Huntington Beach, right next to the Honey Baked Ham store. There's food and music and fun and laundry. Lots of laundry. If you would like to donate, the donate button is on this page or bring something with you. We are entirely volunteer run and need all the help we can get. Get to know the family. There will be faces and stories you remember for a long time.