It was time to celebrate. After a difficult time with my health, my family, and other issues, I felt spiritually famished and had a difficult time feeling grateful for much. Then I faced a major project that took every ounce of strength to finish.
The day after the project, when the kids were in school, I had two brief appointments and some errands. Then I’d take the rest of the day to myself. I deserved it. My last errand was returning an item I’d borrowed from my sister. I called ahead to be sure I could get into her house, knowing she might not be home, since she was finishing her bachelor’s degree. She promised to leave a door unlocked and sheepishly apologized for the mess in the kitchen.
I told her about my plan to have an afternoon alone, and she said I was welcome to stay at the house. I decided to do that—sit on her couch and read a book, the ultimate reward, well-earned after a difficult time. Finally, I had something big to be grateful for. I’d get two or three hours all to myself. I’d be all alone, with no demands on me. I picked up a salad at a fast food restaurant for my lunch and headed to the house, eager for an afternoon of bliss.
I went inside and returned the item. Sure enough, as my sister had said, the kitchen was in disarray. I ached, because while I didn’t know many details, I knew her marriage dangled by a thread, that her husband was emotionally abusive, and that he sabotaged her efforts at finishing her education. I also knew he wouldn’t help with the dishes. She was so busy with trying to be the only supportive parent and go to school fulltime that she probably hadn’t had a chance to really clean the kitchen in a good week. You could tell.
The dishwasher was open and half full. I figured I could load it up and start it. That would ease a bit of her burden, and it wouldn’t take much effort. I crammed in as many dishes as I could and started it up. I looked around the kitchen and noted pots and pans that would need hand washing. I could do a few. I turned on the kitchen sink. Pots and bowls and casserole dishes went into soapy water and came out again. I washed a blender and crock pot. Frying pans. Salad bowls.
I glanced at the clock right about the time the dishwasher finished its load. I had about twenty minutes before I had to leave to get my kids from school. I unloaded the washer and filled it again, annoyed that I couldn’t quite fit in the last of the dishes. I dried everything
I’d hand washed and put them away. After a wipe-down of the cupboards, it was time to go. The only remaining dishes were a few small ones in the sink.
I hadn’t read a single word of my book, but I left the house feeling lighter than air. I’d come looking for respite, a chance for selfish relaxation. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sitting down for two or three hours reading a book, on that particular day, I needed to be filled with more than that. I walked into a situation where I was able to help my own dear sister with something she simply could not do herself.
As I went on with my day, the great feeling lingered, but I didn’t dwell on what I’d done.
About an hour later, as I was out running another errand, my cell phone rang. It was my sister. Usually a woman never at a loss for words, she could hardly speak. She sobbed into the phone. “Thank you. Just . . . thank you. When I walked in and saw the kitchen . . . Thank you. How long did it take you? Thank you.” She kept repeating her thanks between huge sobs.
Her gratitude came through the line like electricity. Tears sprang to my eyes. I hadn’t expected such a visceral reaction to such a simple act, something I’d done on a whim because I’d had the time and the inclination.
Not only did my sweet sister lack the time to do it herself, but I think that spiritually, she had been ground down by abuse so much that the pile of dishes felt like a mountain she just couldn’t climb. Getting rid of it was a small but simple gift I could give her.
A swelling of gratitude filled my chest, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. A prayer accompanied a shift in my focus of gratitude. I was no longer looking for things I had been given.
Thank you for inspiring me to be an instrument in Thy hands.