Tales from the ‘Mat
March 17, 2018
I went to the laundromat on Saturday this week. I walked in and recognized some of the customers from previous visits—the Saturday crowd, an older woman, a father and his young daughter. I gave some quarters to a woman with two daughters, who looked to be twins. The three young girls, all wearing pink, were playing together in the laundromat, having a lot of fun doing something that looked like a mashup of follow the leader and hopscotch.
As I stood and watched the girls take over the laundromat, I realized I had not prayed before I entered the laundromat, so I gathered myself to be in a spirit of prayer, and the prayer that came to me and through me was “not my will, but your will.”
My prayers lately have been influenced by the Scriptures I’m reading, and what I am reading and hearing during worship, book group, and even in church meetings. It wasn’t until later that day that I realized what my prayer had been and what it meant. It was the first time saying, feeling, knowing that relinquishing my plan, my will for that of God’s, a Higher Power, is necessary—and possible. I remember saying to myself a few years ago, something like this, “C’mon, Sal, you can’t let go of your will for GOD’s?” But I couldn’t seem to, and I didn’t. (I was once a sixth grader who took (silent) umbrage because the teacher told us to “submit your tests.” I thought to myself, “Why can’t he just say, “Turn in?” I don’t want to submit anything!”)
I didn’t reflect on the significance of it my prayer until I returned home. At first, I thought of it as having taken a big step through that prayer, but, no, it was not at all me taking a step—the prayer simply came to me and through me, and, on that day, I guess I was ready for it. Somewhere along the way, the barrier of my stubbornness and inability to let go of my ego had fallen. I know I will sometimes forget, that I will sometimes get in my own way, but I feel hopeful that I will remember that there is a better Way than the way of my ego and will.
For the past year and a half or more, I haven’t been able to pray at night. Butterflies started in my stomach, and rapidly made their way up, revealing a feeling of apprehension, nervousness, and dread, and I could not continue. But the night after that prayer at the laundromat, I simply repeated that prayer, “not my will, but your will,” pondered its meaning, and felt at peace. And each night thereafter, always starting with that prayer, I have been able to pray.
But what does it really mean, not my will, but Yours? During my meditation/prayer time last night, I had some thoughts:
Choose to believe that others are coming from a place of respect and love and kindness, not of wresting power and control.
During a recent visit to the laundromat, a woman I had offered quarters to—she had declined them while thanking me for the offer—sat down to talk with me. She asked me about the quarters. I told her the quarters come from people from my church, who listen to my stories every week. I told her that it takes so little to make a difference to people. The change in people when I present one roll of quarters and say “Today is Community Quarters Day. I would like to give you quarters from the community for your laundry,” is sometimes remarkable. They tell me what a difference it makes to them, at least on that one day. The woman nodded. “It made a difference in my day,” she told me. “Just knowing that there is someone out there, doing this. It made a difference to me.”
Receiving quarters, putting them in rolls or in baggies, and going downtown to the laundromat to give them away has made a difference in my life, too. How could it be otherwise? When I give quarters to people, they often give me the gift of sharing their lives, their struggles and their joys, their hopes for a better future, and their gratitude for a small gift. This laundromat in downtown Waterville has become a community for me, a community of sharing and gratitude. I am grateful to every single person in that community for helping me with my own struggles in so many ways.