Last week I went to a local Laundromat to wash three quilts that were too big for our home washing machine. I picked a particular Laundromat with the help of online reviews. According to Yelp, the attendant at this particular Laundromat—Helen is her name—made it one of the best spots in town.
The Laundromat opened at 6 a.m. but the attendant started her day at 8 a.m. I had arrived before 8 and set the quilts to wash, with no one else in the Laundromat. Once Helen arrived she began bustling around the machines, wiping down the sorting tables, turning on fans and the like.
A young man came in, with no obvious load of laundry. Helen welcomed him and opened the “see attendant for key” restroom, telling him to leave his backpack nearby so she could watch it for him. Not long after he left, having done no laundry, the scene was repeated, this time with a young couple. I came to realize these folks were likely homeless. Shelter options for the homeless in our community during the summer months are few. Helen was graciously providing a much needed service that had nothing to do with laundry—a clean and safe restroom offered up with a welcoming smile and a measure of dignity.
I can’t help but think about all the Helens out there who take a job and make it their ministry. You might say that Helen and those like her take the secular and make it sacred.
As we observe Labor Day today, I encourage us all to re-read the ELCA Social Statement, Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All, adopted by the Churchwide Assembly in 1999. There we, as a church, confess, “We tend to view economic life by how it affects us personally. The cross of Christ challenges Christians to view this arena through the experience of those of us who are impoverished, suffering, broken, betrayed, left out, without hope.”
If we view economic life as Helen does, through the experience of those of us who are impoverished, suffering, homeless, without hope, how can we take the secular in our lives and make it sacred?
Linda Post Bushkofsky is executive director.
Photo by author. Used with permission.