His real name is Mark, he confessed, but everybody calls him “Rojo.” “There must be a story behind that,” I invited. “There is,” he nodded with a sly grin. “But I’m not going to tell it.”
He’s single, living alone. He owns a washer/dryer and knows how to use them. But they broke last week, so tonight he’s at the laundromat. Didn’t know anything about Laundry Love, but he was happy to accept our offer to cover the cost of his wash that evening. Every little bit of savings helps.
(On Thursdays, a group of church members visits a local laundromat that serves mostly low-income customers. For two hours, the customers provide the clothes, we provide the quarters. Plus some cookies and snacks. And conversations—the best part of all. See www.laundrylove.org.)
As the washer did its thing, there was nothing to do but wait, and talk. So we did both. He has three grown kids scattered around North Georgia. And an angry-ex whom he didn’t want to talk about. Made some major mistakes earlier, he admits, and maybe his kids learned from them, because they seem to be doing okay.
He’s a mechanic, he said, though the smell of oil and gasoline on the jeans he shoved into the washer had already told me that. Started out part-time; laid off a couple of times, but kept returning. Now he specializes in building and repairing tractors, full-time and steady. He showed a picture of his latest baby—a 38,000 lb. farm vehicle with a.c., a stereo, and seven-foot diameter tires. He built it start to finish. He loves his work. His purchaser was more than happy.
I respected that and told him so. As a pastor, my work never gets finished. I wish I could sometimes step back, wipe my hands on the side of my pants, and feel the pride of declaring, “Done!”
By the time he was folding his freshly warm-and-dry clothes (permanent grease stains still visible), our conversation had lasted forty-five minutes. I hadn’t mentioned Jesus, hadn’t quoted a single Bible verse. All I gave was some listening. And honest respect. And accepted his gift of a partial box of dryer cloths, “for your other customers.”
“Thanks, friend,” he said as he left. “And God bless you guys.”
Two loads of washing and drying: $6.50. A few minutes of listening and sincere respect: priceless. Maybe not a human being completed and “done,” but a pretty good night’s work.