Sharing life at the Laundromat

It’s amazing how giving away a jar full of quarters can seem like such a big deal at times.

We want to hold on to our money and be “wise as a serpent” when it comes to giving that money away.

Yet, our Laundry Love friends continue to show us just how valuable our quarters can become when we decide to share them with others.

Laundry Love is not about giving away quarters and simply donating a couple hours of time each month — it really is about so much more.

It’s about sharing our lives and journey with those around us.

It’s about reaching out to the stranger and learning just how ill-conceived many of our prejudices actually were.

It’s about finding equal footing around a room full of washing machines and dryers.

It’s not about a project — it really is about the people.

It’s about seeing Jesus in the eyes of a stranger, who soon becomes a welcomed friend.

Greg Russinger has shared several times
that as he reads the story about the sick man who was brought to Jesus by his friends he believes we’ve been looking at the story through the wrong lens. Greg says that as he reads the story now, he wonders if it was the friends who brought him to Jesus, or if it was him who brought his friends to Jesus.

After spending a few hours at the Laundromat this past week, I’m certain it’s the later — and hopefully some of the first as well.

This past weekend I was the first to arrive at the laundromat. I immediately met Francis who was blown away that someone would offer to pay for her laundry. Even after filling several machines with quarters for her and paying for other people’s laundry, she still tried to sneak a few quarters of her own into the machines.

As our time at the laundromat continued, I honestly couldn’t tell you how many loads of wash Francis brought with her — I lost count long before we were done.

Francis was trying to do as much laundry as she could afford before catching a Greyhound bus to Kansas the next morning. She planned to spend the next couple months with a relative.

Francis was one of those joyful people with a contagious spirit. Despite her situation in life, you could tell it wasn’t going to get her down for long. As we talked she found out how old I was and immediately began making comparisons to me and her son. Shortly thereafter, she called her son in California, hoping I’d get a chance to talk to him.

As I continued to offer quarters for her laundry she kept reminding me how thankful she was, calling me an angel and then out of the blue gave me a huge hug and an unexpected kiss on the cheek!

Not at all what you’d expect when visiting a laundromat!

Alongside all the laundry and conversations, Francis asked me to help her fold her towels and sheets. I gladly agreed. However, as it came time to fold her fitted sheets, I admitted I was clueless as to the proper way to fold them.

Francis went straight into sharing a story about working in several jobs where she was in charge of laundry and then proceeded to show me the “proper way” to fold a fitted sheet.

By the end of the night, I had not only spoken with Francis — but her son, as well as her cousin via phone. She wanted to share her experience with those she loved and she wanted me to be just as much a part of her family as they were.

As we left the laundromat Saturday night, we wished Francis a goodnight and safe travels to Kansas. She gave us all hugs, thanking us over and over again for our generosity. And then before we left, she asked us to say a prayer for her — which we did.

A small circle of friends, gathered hand in hand, just outside the door of a laundromat.

For two hours, we shared a jar full of quarters and yet Francis and others shared so much more.

As I walked away that night, I knew I had just seen Jesus face to face.

A woman named Francis, with alcohol on her breath and a pack of cigarettes in her pocket, showed him to me with a warm embrace and a kiss on the cheek.

I only hope I was able to show Jesus to her as well.

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