Saturday, 24 July 2010

New City: Drying the cutlery

Over several years of trade union work I have met a number of situations where I think to myself afterwards: "If these people had been able to talk to each other properly about this ages ago, there wouldn't be a problem". Sometimes in relationships at work the sort of ordinary conversations that encourage positive working together, and avoid problems, just don't happen. Sometimes these good working relations do exist. What makes the difference?

In the spirituality of the Focolare, this sort of situation is addressed by the idea of trying to love other people in the ordinary circumstances of life: "be the first to love". Among themselves, and in their publications, those associated with the Focolare share stories of how they have tried to do this. The "Word in Action" feature of the August/September issue of their magazine New City contains this:
I'm studying in Budapest at the moment and live in a small flat let to me by a family. A friend of mine came to visit me recently and after lunch he did the washing up, leaving the knives and forks to dry with their handles facing upwards, different to how I would normally do it putting them with their handles down. I told him this, giving my reasons, and he explained why he did it his way.

As a result of this very simple experience it struck me that if I don't learn to be a little more flexible in my habits, I'll end up growing old with my head full of very good reasons for always doing things my way! From then on I started drying the cutlery with the handles facing upwards.

I came across something St Therese of  Lisieux said to her sister Celine: "Before dying by the sword, let us die by pinpricks". And a pinprick can be a point of view which differs from my own, an insult, a disappointment, an official who behaves more like a robot than a person, a colleague who makes life difficult for me ...

A short time later I went to dinner with my friend's family. They didn't allow me to wash the dishes, but I was very surprised to see that they put the cutlery to dry with the handles facing downwards. We had a real laugh when I told them that I had changed how I dry the cutlery ... they had done exactly the same for me! Every time I manage to "lose my life", I experience such joy, such a freedom that makes it much easier for me to love the others.

My first thought, accompanied by considerable laughter (LOL, is I think the modern term): how someone dries their cutlery really isn't that important!

Second thought, also accompanied by laughter: what can someone who gets a towel and dries their cutlery straight away, without leaving it to drain at all, learn from this story?

Third thought, more serious this time: a privilege of living on my own is that I can stick to my habits, or at least to some of them.

Fourth thought: reflecting on my trade union experience, that a practice of these small and, in themselves insiginificant, acts helps to create a situation in the workplace where potentially problematic situations are addressed in the ordinary intercourse of daily life, and so don't become problems at all.

The million dollar question: the next time I have visitor to my home, will I leave the washing up to drain or not?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

zero says
From my experience of washing up in your home I dare say you will get the teatowel out to dry straight away!(I have suggested on numerous occasions that we leave everything to drain with the window open slightly and get back to watching " You Tube"!)
I tend to put the knives draining downwards for safety sake and the spoons and forks pointing upwards as I don't think they'll fit in the holder if I put them facing down.

Francis said...

If guests see you placing the cutlery differently to the way they do it might upset them,albeit at some sub-conscious level. It's probalby best to avoid this by letting them do the washing up..that way they can do what they want with the cutlery ;)

Then I asked myself WWJD and did a bit of Googling. Not a lot came up but I did find this:
The invitation Boaz gave to Ruth to eat with his workers, indicates that these same customs [Arabic eating habits] must
have been in operation in those days: "And Boaz said unto her, At mealtime come thou
hither, and eat of the bread, and dip thy morsel in the vinegar" (Ruth 2:14). And at the last
supper JESUS said to His disciples, "He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same
shall betray me" (Matthew 26:23). Furthermore, He spoke of dipping a choice portion of the
meat called the sop into the dish (John 13:26).

So, there we have it,Joe. Just say, "Abjure thee, Sheffield Steel," and use your fingers/pieces of bread.

Anonymous said...

zero says
Francis,it's very encouraging to see you considering looking at Biblical passages.
As a dishwasher owner, how do you put the cutlery in the holder?
also, to Joe, as a student I am assuming this writer (about the cutlery ) is young and therefore is still able to change their "Ways" but a man of 50 years of age...