06 December 2010

Ordinary Stuff

Saturday morning I went to help clean the church. This is not a task that most people relish. But I looked forward to it, and had a great time. Everybody had assigned tasks, of course. I worked by myself, sweeping, dusting, polishing furniture, cleaning doors and windows. Beethoven's 9th blaring in my ears.

I surprised myself a little, even. I knew I wouldn't mind doing it, but I liked it more than I'd expected to. Wonder why. Maybe it's because all my work during the week is conceptual: I write, I think, I read, I talk. That's basically it. I like it of course, but a steady diet of nothing but one thing all the time can get monotonous for anyone. So it was nice to literally get my hands dirty, see something transform from dusty and grimy to clean and shining right before my eyes. Therapeutic, in a way. The sort of almost instant gratification that I don't get very often. And nice to know that I had done my bit to keep the church clean. It was like saying to God "Here's a way I can actually show you that I'm grateful for everything I have, I'll help make Your house clean and neat so that those who come here will feel welcomed and comforted."

I'm struck by little things in life sometimes, ordinary things. Going to the grocery store or the drugstore no doubt seems like mindless drudgery to many, and I understand that. But I like it a lot. My first law firm job after school was in a far-away country which at the time had a very protectionist government; American goods were extremely expensive and hard to find, and local markets were very small and not well-stocked. But from time to time I was able to access the big American grocery store and drugstore on the US Army base, and it was like being instantly transported back home again.

Americans who haven't had the experience of living far away, without all the comforts and conveniences they take for granted, wouldn't fully understand how good we have it here. But I'm glad I had that experience because I have never again taken for granted the countless little things in my life that are good, and convenient, and helpful, and make my life easier and more pleasant. Things as minor as walking into a clean, well-lighted, well-stocked, safe, secure, friendly grocery store. Even today, whenever I walk into one here, I remember what it was like to be in that other country where imported bananas were illegal (I'm not kidding) and a "big" store was maybe 1000 square feet and its selection of goods was mediocre at best. To be surrounded every day here by such abundance, in such safety, is something I don't take for granted anymore. I'm grateful for it every day, and for all the little reminders, the ordinary things, that tell me my life is pretty good.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

You know, back in my old ward we were assigned to clean the building on a semi-regular basis. Everyone hemmed and hawed over it, including me, but really in the end I loved doing it. I felt a greater appreciation for the building, more of a sense of ownership of it, you know?

So I get this. And yeah, there is something meditative about just going about your business in this way.