Solidarity and Laundry Rooms

By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

Washing MachineI have come to like to do laundry. The laundry room is warm, generally quiet, and the “mindless tasks” of waiting, transferring clothes and towels from one machine to another, and folding the items provides a great backdrop for reading and praying. During a time when I was considering a different volunteer ministry at a local homeless shelter, another Norbertine blurted aloud as we we passed in the abbey laundry room, “It makes me mindful of those who do not have clean laundry.”

“Yes, like probably half of the population in Puerto Rico, who have not had electricity for several months,” I replied.

It was easy for me to question the constant requests by shelter guests for socks, underwear, and sweatshirts for the several winters that I have volunteered at St. John the Evangelist Homeless Shelter. I asked myself, “What happened to the items that you got last week?”

As a one-month veteran of the shelter laundry room, I have a truer picture of the drill of bagging your laundry, tossing it in the laundry room, and hoping that your jeans and underwear don’t get mixed up with another’s. And this is presuming that the shelter has an adequate supply of donated detergent, that the workhorse washers and dryers are functioning, and that volunteers are available to wash and fold the clothes.

Last month, Jane Angha delivered the presentation Solidarity: We are Our Brothers’ and Sisters’ Keeper at the Norbertine Center for Spirituality. At one point, she asked us to turn to our neighbor and share with each other a definition or example of “solidarity.” Maybe it was the challenge of advocating for a just federal tax bill—a bill that many experts agree will cut rates for corporations and upper-income payers but actually raise the tax burden on many low and middle income taxpayers. But I guess that I was on a roll that night: “The next time that we walk down the grocery store bakery aisle to buy a birthday cake, can we also be mindful of the workers who picked the coffee beans and the tomatoes for the deli and produce departments? Do these workers earn a just wage and labor in safe conditions?”

There are lots of opportunities in the course of every day to reflect, pray, and act in solidarity with those who suffer economic deprivation:

  • performing laundry at a time of day when the local electricity grid is less busy
  • dropping change in the Salvation Army red kettle as you leave the stores while Christmas shopping
  • offering an Our Father when stuck in traffic for those who don’t have access to reliable transportation
  • serving a meal at a community meal program or homeless shelter
  • writing to your legislator when foreign aid or health care for the indigent is being threatened
  • … the opportunities are endless.
DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro’s own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of St. Norbert Abbey or of any other Norbertine.

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