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Roxane B. Salonen, Published July 05 2013

Living Faith: Laundry fiasco is a lesson in humility

A few weeks ago, I realized we were overdue for our biannual clothes haul to the launderette. So my middle girl and I packed up about 10 loads and headed out.

With a family vacation just around the corner, our “to do” list stretched to South Dakota. The day’s tasks seemed daunting.

Inside the launderette, I searched for a table to set down a few baskets. It would be a day of sharing space, I quickly realized. We plopped down our stack and got to work.

It was after that first round had sloshed and swished and tumbled in the dryers that the fiasco unfolded. Loading the first bunch into the rolling basket, I made my way to the folding table that seemed the most open.

“Is it OK if we use a little of the table?” I asked the gal nearby. I began reordering the stack of magazines so we could both comfortably fold.

“Well, not to be mean, but you sort of took over our other table earlier.”

Wait, what? Oh dear.

In my own haste and stress, I hadn’t tuned into the strong, silent feelings that apparently had been roiling the whole time we were off doing secondary tasks. Clearly, she wasn’t happy.

Groping for the right words, I tried building a quick verbal bridge but fell short. Instead, it came off as defensive.

“Mom …”

It was my daughter, obviously mortified I’d engaged in a discussion with a stranger that was now turning tense.

“We’ll just go over here,” I said, rolling the basket to the other table, which seemed busier yet.

As my daughter and I folded in silence, a rush of negative emotions began piercing my heart. My own fatigue and stress had gotten in the way of grace. I’d blown it and I felt awful inside.

Sometimes a redo can happen, but it didn’t seem likely now. We stood for the next hour breaking our backs in Downy-scented, tension-heavy air.

The woman’s reaction wasn’t what was bothering me, however. I could step back from my feelings long enough to assume she must have been having a rough day, too. The harder thing was coming to terms with my own reaction.

One of the single most important lessons I’ve learned in my 44 years of life is that while I can’t control the actions and reactions of others, I have full control of my own. I could only blame myself for how things had gone down – or at least how I was feeling about it all.

Soon after the woman left, the attendant came over to see how I was doing and asked if I needed anything, almost as if sensing I needed a little pick-me-up.

I interpreted her spontaneous reaching-out as the moment of grace I’d failed to cultivate, and a way out of my funk. Her kind smile had reminded me of my goodness.

With that now on my heart, I redirected my thoughts and said a quiet prayer for the woman who’d gotten upset. Then I turned to God, asking forgiveness for my failure. After all, I’ve been abundantly blessed, and because of that, owe others and him my best.

But until we’ve brought our failings before God, we can’t really move forward. I know this and yet need frequent reminders, it seems.

Bringing this moment to God provided a golden opportunity. In acknowledging my own sinful nature, I was reminded that no matter my attempts to walk in grace, I fall like everyone else.

And so I go with renewed humility before God, saying, “I cannot do this without you. Thank you for being here and loving me always, faults and all.”

The next laundry day will be different. Even if a perfect redo wasn’t possible that day, learning from my moment of weakness and discovering a way to reconcile it has brought a measure of peace to my heart, and a whole lot of hope.

Roxane B. Salonen is a freelance writer who lives in Fargo with her husband and five children. If you have a story of faith to share with her, email roxanebsalonen@gmail.com