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Midnight Laundry
Photo: Marco Reckmann
The knock on our door came at about 3 a.m. I nudged Philip awake. “Someone’s knocking,” I said groggily. He popped up to see what was the matter, and I turned to look at the clock, assuming it must be morning. Nope. It was still the middle of the night.

My husband and I were sleeping in a classroom at the church, playing the role of host in a program our church participates in called the Interfaith Hospitality Network. IHN gets families, who have lost their housing, back on their feet by helping them save money and teaching them important life skills, such as how to budget, write a résumé and interview well. In the meantime, the families stay at a different church each week and have meals prepared for them; a number of area churches have gotten involved here in Orlando. The program fills an important need by keeping displaced families together until they find permanent housing.

Philip went out in the hall to address the issue, returning several minutes later. “Harriet needed to get her laundry started,” he said, “so she needed me to unlock the laundry room.”

My eyes got wide. “Laundry? Now?? It’s 3 in the morning!”

“Well, with five kids, she doesn’t have time to do it during the day …”

I was incredulous—upset that this person, one of the women enrolled in the program, would wake us in order to do something that could obviously wait till tomorrow. I didn’t mince words in expressing my displeasure to my husband. He tried to calm me, and we eventually went back to sleep without any more interruptions.

In the morning, after talking with Harriet a little further, Philip received a tidbit of information that made the evening’s shenanigans make a little more sense: One of Harriet’s boys had wet the bed in the night. Harriet had been embarrassed to admit it because her son was using a bed and linens provided by the program, so she had made up an alternate reason for needing Philip to open the laundry room.

I Had Passed Judgment

When he passed this info on to me, my heart sunk. I had been so impatient, so disgruntled at being awoken for what I had deemed an unworthy reason, that I had responded without compassion. I had passed judgment, complained and been angry.

But the truth was, here was a woman who was doing her best to raise five boys, support her family, and get them back into a stable housing situation all at the same time—by herself. She had an embarrassing emergency in the night, and I failed to react with understanding. Thank goodness my husband responded with grace and kindness, and Harriet never had to experience the ugliness in my heart.

But I knew it was there. It was nice of me to volunteer for the program, to sleep for one night on an air mattress in a church so I could be available in case needs arose. But a need had arisen, and not only had I done nothing to meet it, but I had even dismissed its validity.

Who am I to judge? I am blessed beyond words, with a comfortable place to live and sleep, leftovers I dump in the trash, money to spend on entertainment and vacations. If Harriet needs me to help her do laundry at 3 a.m. one night every couple of months, I certainly think I should be able to rise to the occasion with a positive spirit.

In our neighborhoods, communities and world, myriad needs are crying out to be met. And I’m realizing more and more how important it is to not only stand and say, “I’ll help,” but to do it with the right heart as well—one that’s humble, patient, accepting and loving.

For more information about the Interfaith Hospitality Network, visit www.nihn.org.

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By Erika Hueneke. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

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