You Love the Person Who will Use it Next
The other day I was scrolling through Facebook, as one does, and I saw an image liked by a friend that stopped me in my tracks. And I’ve been thinking about it, days later.
It’s a lovely watercolor of pots, pans, and cooking utensils stacked mishmash, with a quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta (yep, that’s Mother Teresa):
“Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” -St. Teresa of Calcutta
Dishes are my least-favorite chore. Give me a day’s worth of laundry any day over scrubbing grease and who-knows-what off that casserole dish. I even dread loading and unloading the dishwasher, even when the kids are mostly in charge of that now. I don’t know why… I just don’t love doing the dishes.
Which is precisely why I think this quote stopped me like it did. It’s made me recenter my motivation for doing the dishes:
It’s because I love these people I live with, who will most likely use them next.
Of course, I’d give you this answer if you probed deep enough. This isn’t new to me. But still …I need reminders, more often than I care to admit.
What if we approached our ordinary liturgies with this same mindset? Not trying to force some non-existent love out of the task itself, but because we love who we’re doing it for?
What if I didn’t do my work because it’s time to make the doughnuts, or because I have to or else I won’t make money—but because I love the people I’m working for?
What if I care about my neighbors, not because “the Bible says to” or because it’s what I’m “supposed” to do—but because I actually love them? I actually enjoy spending time with them?
What if I listened to my six-year-old sloooowly sound out phonetic sounds as he practices reading, taking ten minutes to read four short sentences—simply because I loved him?
We do this most of the time, I’d wager. It’s just easy to forget in the thick of it.
And yes, I’d argue sometimes we need those “have to” reasons when it’s crazy-hard to love. Not all neighbors are easy. Sometimes family is frustrating. Busyness and obligations can get the in way of pure motive.
But… Do a task simply for the love the person we’re doing it for. Not because we’re supposed to.
What a novel idea.
I need this reminder sometimes.
You May Also Like:
Get the weekly email called 5 Quick Things,
where Tsh shares stuff she either created herself or loved from others. (It can be read in under a minute, pinky-swear.)
You’ll also get an excerpt from her latest book, At Home in the World, a memoir about the school year her family backpacked around the world.