On Monday, October 21st, I worked in a clinic for people with mental illness and substance abuse disorder. A woman I have known for a while came into the clinic. We also run into each other at the laundromat every now and then. We greeted each other, and she said to me, “When are you going to the laundromat?” I thought for a minute. “I’m going tomorrow,” I told her. “What time?” I thought again. “Around 9:30, I think.”
On Tuesday, mindful that I had told her I would be at the laundromat, I went to the bank for quarters, then headed to the Highlander Laundromat. I got there a little before nine. I arrived a bit frazzled, as Monday had been my first day on a new job, and in a little over an hour I had to be at the hospital for training.
I offered quarters to a man who was just starting his laundry. “This is community quarters day. I’d like to give you quarters from the community.” The man looked at me, shocked. “You want to give these to me? Why?” I explained the quarters were given to me by people from my church. He reached out and took the quarters. “This saves me,” he said, looking right at me. “I’m glad,” I said. I think he meant the quarters saved him money, but as his words came to me, I heard something more.
I sat down where I like to sit, with a view of the door, so I can see people when they come in. A middle-aged woman was sitting across from me. She looked tired. She told me she had just moved out of an apartment that was mildewed and moldy and smelly, and she was having to wash all of her clothes and other things to “get the smell out.” I offered her a roll of quarters. She took them, and then offered her hand to me and introduced herself. She told me about her troubles--her apartment troubles, a recent prolonged illness, and her hopes and plans for the future. She talked of being able to offer voice lessons again, now that she was feeling better, and in a better living space.
I offered quarters to a woman who was just putting her laundry in. She thanked me and said, “I don’t need quarters, but I remember you. You were giving away quarters when I was working here.” It was Annette, the laundromat attendant I met when I first started giving away quarters at the Highlander. We sat down together and caught up. I remembered that she had left the Highlander to go to work at Mt. St. Joseph’s. She told me she was still working at Mt. St. Joe’s, and that next month, November, would make three years there for her. She smiled as she told me that she is still enjoying her work.
I waited a few minutes to see if the woman from the clinic would come in. I looked around the laundromat. I saw an ad for the Jehovah's Witnesses. I know the ad has been there for a long time, but I had never noticed the scripture citation before. “Isaiah 41:10. ‘Do not be anxious, for I am your God.’” I pondered the presence of that Scripture in the Highlander. It was getting close to 10:00 AM, and I had somewhere to be. As I got up and walked out of the ‘Mat, I realized that I no longer felt frazzled. I felt calm. I felt good. I felt joy. Life is good. God is good. And sometimes the laundromat is church.