How many steps really separate any one of us from the life we currently live, in a house or apartment in which we get to sleep in a bed and cook our meals in a kitchen from a different life entirely? How long could we go without work before the front seat of our car became our bed and the backseat our closet? How many misfortunes would this take? Surprisingly few. And sometimes the number of quarters it would take to clean our clothes or bedding are more than we would have. Sometimes the simple pleasure of a clean, fresh blanket would be enough to bring us to tears. Sometimes a person to listen would lighten the load for a little while.
Our second Laundry Love event took place on Wednesday, February 8 at the Laundromat on Beach and Garfield in Huntington Beach. We had some guests from last time and some new ones as well. It was an opportunity to serve others and to be enriched by the gifts they brought to us. A couple with five children was able to clean all of their clothes and bedding. A woman who only washes clothes twice a year because of the cost was able to wash a second time in two months. A young family with two children worked together while the children colored pictures, thanking us politely when they handed back the books and colors. And a woman who used to live in a house with a husband found herself now living in her car after her husband divorced her after she contracted a neurological disease. She did find love, but then her boyfriend died and she was left, disabled and alone. The afghan she washed finally felt soft and clean, a comfort on the cool nights that she sleeps alone in her small van.
People shared their lives with us, their struggles and their overcoming. One unemployed construction worker dubbed himself the “King of Low Maintenance.” He managed to keep no more clothes that would fit in an average sized duffel and kept only those things which he absolutely needed. He earned money doing side jobs and bought an old camper, which he finds adequate, even if it does leak a bit during the rain. In some ways, he was luckier than most. In spite of some trouble, which cost him his license, he was able to work when he could find it. And as a man, he was somewhat less vulnerable than some of our other clients.
Again, people were grateful. Being grateful for help is an act of grace. Though some people had concerns regarding allergies to some of the soaps, none complained about the situation. All thanked us, thanked God, saw the opportunity to do laundry as a blessing.
Doing laundry is something that we can take for granted, even complain about, especially if we are financially comfortable and live in a home that is equipped with a washer and dryer. It can be easy to forget what a blessing it is to have this ability and ease. This week, we were able to help eleven families do the equivalent of about 80 loads of wash. It was our honor to do this and to meet these remarkable people. As with all service projects, the line quickly blurs between those serving and being served. Sometimes the lessons have to do with the wonder of people’s resourcefulness, their attitude in the face of adversity. Sometimes it’s just in the prayer I say at night, when I pull warm covers over myself and look up at a roof that doesn’t leak and find myself deeply grateful that I am in from the cold. Connie Bouvier