On the third Thursday evening of each month, a group of folks from the church take a bucket of quarters to a laundromat that caters to low-income customers. For two hours, the customers provide the clothes and we provide the quarters. It can cost a family $17-$20 to do a week’s wash, a hefty amount for a minimal income budget. Free laundry provides significant financial help.
But in December, it was a catastrophe.
Ten minutes after we arrived, the washers were churning and patrons settled into conversations. But suddenly a clasp on one washing machine’s hose broke. Water poured out. Within minutes, water covered the entire floor. A lot of water. Soapy water. A mess.
Quoting Angie, one of our church volunteers: “The owners were not around, but it didn’t really matter. We suddenly had people from 4 different ethnic groups who could barely communicate with each other all on their feet working together to solve the problem. We found mops, brooms, towels, a tool box, and even a shop vac. We had a Korean man in his early 80’s wearing a mask working next to Nim, a 6 year old Burmese girl, doing everything in their power to get the water out of the building and stop the washer from leaking.”
The owner returned, shocked to see the catastrophic spill, then utterly relieved to realize the problem had been addressed and floors were almost dry. So she left. A few minutes later, she returned with a huge tray of wings, opened the vending machine for free sodas, and opened the table for everyone! The weekly chore of doing the wash turned into a neighborhood block party.
As Angie wrote, “No one asked anyone to do anything, but everyone helped. Everyone contributed. It was beautiful. I was so happy to be part of it. I don’t know what it is, but in my experience helping the “less fortunate,” I see more generosity in them than I do in most people who can “afford” to be generous.”
Our group of volunteers admitted that if such an accident had happened at a business in our up-scale neighborhoods, each customer would have quickly picked up their clothes and left.
We have much to learn from those “less fortunate.”