Wash Day


Most of us take clean clothes for granted.

As part of our ministry, we do laundry for clients. On a cold night recently, we served 29 people with food, snacks, new-to-them-clothing [needs.streetyouthministry.org], many of whom did laundry. We actually ran out of laundry money and were saying no to a couple folks. And then one of the participants remembered a $20 bill that had been passed to them earlier in the day as a gift. They donated it so we could do the last few loads. We cleaned up well (we’re welcome guests at the laundromat and want to keep it that way) and were leaving.

A client came in after ever with a small handful of clothing, proclaiming “I’m too late.” I decided to do his laundry, too. As we waited, I asked if he needed anything, pointing to the truck with donated clothing in the bed. He looked straight down at the ground and said, “Ummmm… no.” All his face muscles went slack, too. So I asked again and said, “You’re really welcome to anything we have that would help.” He still said, “No.” I told him what I noticed about his body language. He admitted, “It’s hard for me to accept things. I don’t need as much as maybe other people out here.”

We went inside from the cold, and I asked over the sound of the washing machines, “How can I be praying for you?” He considers himself Catholic, but said, “Praying is hard for me. I have to think so long about what to say.” I said loudly, “Dear God,… Hear us.” And then softly, “Now, we’re praying. Let’s just talk about what you want God to do in your life. That’s it.” He then began to tell about how much he depends on his car and that it’s broken down. He asked that he would get help to fix it himself. He then explained that he’s on the waiting list to get into Job Corps to finish high school and learn welding. He asked that it would go faster. Then he expressed anxieties about the type of people there: “I’m afraid they drink and use drugs, and the temptation might be too much for me.” So we prayed for good and clean friends there and for strength and self-control. Then he asked, “I want God to keep my father, step-mom and younger siblings safe at home.” He expressed a disconnection from them and an inability to share the truth with them. That led to an expression of guilt from leaving them and shame over the things he’s done on the streets. He’s not ready to go back, but he profoundly misses them and knows they miss him. We prayed for reconnection with his family in a safe way that didn’t necessarily mean quitting his quest for what his life it to become but rather meant connecting with their love and being able to give love. Then he prayed, “I want my mother to someday learn what being a mother should be.” We prayed for reconciliation and healing of wounds from this relationship. 

Eventually his clothes were clean and dried and it was time for me to go home. 

As I drove away, I thought, “Pretty good washing!” and prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for being washed clean, for the privilege of helping other to wash, and for the opportunity to serve.”

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