Dirty work

Footwashing among members of Brethren Volunter Service Unit 305. Photo by Ben Bear

Footwashing among members of Brethren Volunteer Service Unit 305.
Photo by Ben Bear

By Ben Bear, Brethren Volunteer Service recruiter

My placement during my second year of Brethren Volunteer Service was in Cincinnati at a shelter for families with kids. Our office was a former rectory and we used the adjoining unused church for storage. During my first week there, the office manager, MerryBeth, took me on a tour of the extra space on the other side of the courtyard. We hadn’t visited it the first day because my pants were too dark. Yes, too dark.

The building was infested with thousands of baby fleas from feral cats who had found a way into the building. Lighter-colored pants were necessary so you could make sure that you knocked off all of the tiny fleas clinging to the lower half of your pants once you left the building. That was some dirty work!

Loving people we don’t know can feel like dirty work—sometimes because we don’t understand them. Loving people we do know can be dirty work, too, sometimes because we assume we know them better than we do. We are called to love others as we love ourselves, but even loving ourselves can be a dirty, muddled topic. We are dirty work, and we have lots of work to do.

But why do we feel compelled to do the dirty work of love? Maybe we do it because loving ourselves allows us to see ways to love the rest of the world. Maybe we love the world because Jesus calls us to it every day, to follow his example from the very first Love Feast when he did the dirty work of washing his disciples’ feet.

What are you doing to find the dirty, necessary work of loving and serving? Whom will you try to understand better? To whom will you apologize and start anew? How are you striving to love yourself? We are called to serve: the faces we may have yet to meet, those who are familiar to us, and even ourselves. It’ll be downright hard a lot of the time, and yes, it can be a mess, but that’s okay. Let’s get some dirt under our fingernails. Let’s do the work of loving.

Join or support the dirty, loving work of Brethren Volunteer Service at brethren.org/bvs .

(Read this issue of eBrethren)

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