This lesson is something I know that anyone who is responsible for household chores has experienced. In fact, it’s so obvious that I wonder if it’s even worth mentioning.
#4) The work of community often goes unnoticed.
Not to beat a dead horse, but I don’t really do the dishes very often. So when I do plunge in and make a dent in the pile, or when I empty the drying rack during the day, I get a bit discouraged when J comes home from work and there is already a pile of dirty dishes in the sink, hiding my hard work.
“I did the dishes today, hon!” I proudly announce on those occasions, and then I glance around sheepishly. “Really, I did. Honest.”
You may have heard about the interesting group of folks known to us as the “desert fathers and mothers” (or abbas and ammas). Early monastic Christians, the abbas and ammas lived out in the desert either in solitude or in small enclave communities. What has been passed on to us from the third and fourth century through various sources are their “sayings.” These appear as stories from their lives that still offer spiritual guidance to us through the use of Scripture and practical wisdom. (See, for example, Benedicta Ward’s compilation The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks. You can even “search inside” at Amazon.)
To our ears–and to our lives–these ancient sayings often seem odd, impractical, and quaint. But they’re really rather revolutionary.
Still, what could they possibly have to do with dishwashers?
I’m so glad you asked.
There is a part of me that has been biologically wired to take the reins of projects that are floundering. I really–and I mean really–hate to stand around when there are things that need doing, food that needs baking, parties that need planning, people that need, ahem, instructing. My dad’s family members–his sisters in particular–are also this way, so I think it’s in our blood.
Some people might call us bossy. I say we know how to get things done.
That is my way of introducing Lesson #2, something I’ve had a particularly hard time learning in this land without dishwashers:
2) Just because you don't like the way it's being done
doesn't mean you should just do it yourself.
Let’s face it: most of the time, I’d rather just do it myself.
Living in this land without dishwashers, we’ve learned a few things about community. The first one is pretty obvious.
1) Community is messy.
And of course I mean this both literally and figuratively.
Whatever community you find yourself in, whether it’s intentional community with homeless people sleeping on your couch (probably not) or just your close circle of friends and family–you and your spouse, friends who come over for a movie and popcorn, or the extended relatives for a twice-a-year holiday feast—it’s still messy. Who hasn’t in some way experienced community right inside the four walls of her house, and who hasn’t experienced the physical mess it leaves behind? It’s dishes in the sink, clutter on the coffee table, dirty towels in the bathroom, dirt on the welcome mat.
That’s what having people sharing the same space does, even if you’re the kind of person who pays someone else to clean it up for you when it’s all said and done. You’ve seen the mess, so you know what I’m saying.
When we first wandered through the house that was to become our permanent home, a few things stood out to me. One of them was the green linoleum in the kitchen. Another was the charming archways between the downstairs living areas. Another was the unfortunate bathroom situation upstairs—a bathtub less than four inches from the front of the toilet bowl, for example, making it impossible to, well, sit on the toilet.
What I don’t remember is whether it struck us, during that first walk-through, or the second, or the third, that the kitchen did not have a dishwasher.
Maybe we noticed at the time and decided it didn’t matter. Maybe we thought we’d remodel the kitchen someday and be able to squeeze one in. Maybe.
Regardless, our little, green-lineoleumed, oddly-shaped kitchen does not have a dishwasher or room to add one. As a result, one of us spends a great deal of time in front of the sink, washing dishes, and the truth is that it’s rarely me. (This qualifies as yet another reason why my husband is awesome.)