Laundromats are like no other place. They’re where you go, quite literally, to air your dirty laundry. In public. Chances are, it’s been a long time since you had to load up on quarters and visit one.
When we had no washer for a time, Pam and I stuffed big canvas bags with clothes, sheets and towels, a separate bag for all our really disgusting work clothes and headed for the laundromat. Despite having lived in town for years, we had to Google “laundromat near me.” It was on Main Street, a few doors down from the food market we visit all the time. We just never noticed the Lighthouse Laundry, never needed to.
I’m folding towels and a man walks in. “This rain!” he says as he struggles through the door lugging his bag with one arm, the other amputated at the elbow. He’s maybe 35. “I gotta deliver food in this!” he says with a big laugh. I groan in sympathy. “Well, it’s bad,” he says with a little smirk, “but in the rain—people tip more, man. They don’t want to go out!” He holds up a paper cup full of quarters. “I never need to use that thing,” he says, jerking his head in the direction of the change machine that had just stolen ten dollars from me. “They just toss me my tip quarters.”
After he gets the washer going, he leaves.
There’s a woman with a child back in the dryer section. As I check on my things I say hello. She’s nervous I can tell. “My husband died four days ago.” He went in with Covid, she says, and the hospital let him die. She is distraught and angry. I listen while a crack opens in my heart. I’ve known this person for sixty seconds, yet she is pouring out her heart.
“How old was your husband?” I ask. He was just 67. Would I like to see his obituary? She taps her phone and shows me his picture. I tell her he looks like a very good man. She nods and bites her lip. “Her,” she says, pointing to the little girl, maybe four years old, “my granddaughter, she won’t say anything. Silent for four days.” The girl smiles at me.
Many of us have had less of church these days. We couldn’t go during the pandemic, and we got used to Zoom church. Pastors tell me people are slow to come back. Yes, go back when you can, but remember that you don’t have to “go to church” to find the community God intends for you. In fact, going to church can easily become a way of choosing your own clique and neglecting or denying the human community all around you.
If our church community is real, divine—and not just a club for the like-minded—it will teach us to say, My church is the world.
Thanks, David. Mine is next to a Dunkin’ Donuts – two places to find God’s beloved children gathered over common tasks and beverages.
Michael Moore says
As a Southerner, mine would be a Waffle House late at night. Lots of lessons for a Christian to learn there.
David Anderson says
These places—the Waffle House, and the dive next to Dunkin’ Donuts—call to mind so many late night diners, bars and pubs where people gather to not be alone.
Matt Edwards says
I went to my first AA meeting in East Norwalk (so no one from Darien would see me), sat in the back, and listened to an incredibly diverse group of men and women open up about their lives – all the dirty laundry included. I left that night thinking “Those are my people.”