2nd Wednesdays at 7pm Beach Coin Laundry 19072 Beach Bl (x Garfield) Huntington Beach

Angels

As we began this months Laundrylove in Huntington Beach, I was reminded that 'angels' are everywhere. It comes out of a belief that there is a difference between the thought "If there are angels...." and the thought "Since there are angels...".
We began the time, right after Shannon took us through her loving orientation (I intentionally use that word because it is indeed her way of loving the volunteers- inviting them to see this task or that act as an opportunity to love) with a prayer, and I asked the group to consider that there were inner and outer angels present this night.
We see them in the volunteers, in the Bracken's Food Truck folks who cooked and served a healthy dinner, in the staff like Gabby and her family that maintain the Laundromat, and in the guests themselves.
As I walk the line with Christian, doing the work of signing up guests(first name, number of loads?, groceries?) we now know that the stories begin in that line. We've learned to let go (mostly) of the need to get done, and to listen. Stories of families in crisis, victories in housing, changes in health.
I stopped to listen to a story of PTSD, and the need for healing prayer. I notice Christian doing the same, carefully listening to one person's story. That we are entrusted with these sacred stories is the miracle of Laundrylove.

This night we were led, after Shannon's opening talk, by John and Shevawn. Shevawn has mastered the art of guiding the flow of the work that must be done to accommodate over 30 people and over a hundred loads of laundry; to navigate the complexities of personalities and logistics. And this night we had an abundance of volunteers. Enough that we could offer the gift of conversation to our guests who come to talk and have some community that is outside of their normal circle.

We missed Josh and his family. Josh is the one who dances for two hours while his parents do the laundry, and try to remind him that he needs to be careful; Josh has some bad feet. We think that Josh is probably recovering from foot surgery.

And Joshua, our resident street artist, is reluctant to embrace that title, but with a little coaxing grabs the chalk and heads to the sidewalk. "Give me a word" he says. "Grace" I reply. With the movement of a ballet dancer he begins to magically swish and mark a G, and before long the word moves across the sidewalk. "Do you like Mario" he says, referring to the video game character. "Yes" I reply, since my now grown kids liked the game. So he tops off the word Grace with the head of Mario popping over the top.

These are my anecdotes. There are dozens more for each of the volunteers. After the night is over, we sometimes talk about those stories, and I am always humbled and awestruck at the level of deep sharing that goes on within the noise and confusion and activity that comes with doing laundry in a crowded laundromat.

Sugarbear, a quiet man who doesn't do laundry, and, until recently, didn't accept food or clothing, has begun to hang closer. I say hello to him, and ask how he is doing. He replies that he is doing well, and it seems he is. Rory and Faye, who have adopted him in a sense, and have won him over to accepting food, agree that Sugarbear seems to be warming up to us tonight.

The Stones and David Bowie offer their music to us.

There are some conflicts. There are some difficult personalities. There are some hurt feelings as we try to enforce the curfew that the laundromat owner has asked us to try to observe.

But all in all, after over 5 years of doing this, with some of the same people, we are just as alive and fresh as when we began. Each night is a resurrection in some sense. And to some, what looks like a world of broken people when they walk in is now seen through the lens of compassion and love and generosity as a sign that God is coming to us in the faces and lives of these special friends. Or if you prefer, these angels.

Steve Bruce