“A Crazy Lenten Act”
I received an invitation a couple of weeks ago from Alaskan blogger Tea N.Crumpet from Stress Management. She wanted to know if I was game for a “crazy Lenten act.” And I was. She asked if I would accompany her to the local homeless shelter and wash peoples’ feet. Without hesitation, I said “Sign me up!” I knew nothing about who was sponsoring it and why they were organizing this event. I assumed it was a Lenten service or something.
It was Tuesday night during family prayer that I all of a sudden became nervous. Would I be able to do this? How would the people feel about having their feet washed? Then I checked my email right before going to bed and TNC informed me her kiddo needed emergency dental surgery the next day so she would not be able to come. I really wondered, “could I do this by myself?” I already had my dad picking up Big Girl from pre-school. I had it all scheduled. So I went.
The event was actually held at Bean’s Cafe (next door to the homeless shelter) which serves food to anyone who is hungry, including many working poor. In my 17 years of living in Anchorage, AK, I have NEVER been to Bean’s Cafe! When I passed through the doors, uncertain, I ran into a beautiful woman I have known for years. Thank God for her!
A woman came up to me, asked me my name and told me to start filling buckets. A flurry of activity ensued. More volunteers showed up. Crates were set up where those who were doing the washing would sit. Seats in front of the crates. A woman pulled me aside and asked if I had any questions. As a matter of fact I did:
Who are you?
“We are a group of volunteer nurses who decided to wash feet in order to stave off health problems before they explode into major issues. We wanted to do health care in a personalized fashion!”
How often do you do this?
Where do you get all of your supplies?
“These come from us and donations from people. We scrounge!”
What is my job?
“We rarely allow newbies to wash feet, but you are going to do it today. We want you to keep it as sanitary as possible and check for anything unusual on the foot. If you see anything, call me!”
She told me which crate was mine, I was given instructions on soaping and disinfectants, and I received my first guest. I watched as she pulled up her dirt crusted layers of pants, and took off her filthy socks. As she put her feet in the water she sighed and said “I haven’t been able to soak my feet in months!” I gulped. I prayed “God, do NOT let me cry!” I looked at my dear friend whom I have known for years. This was her 3rd time washing feet. She wasn’t crying. She was happy and chatting it up with her guest. I followed suit. My guest’s feet were not too dirty and I decided to give her a foot massage. She burst into tears. She told me her feet are so tired. She walks all day long.
I asked where she was from and she told me her Clan and her region of AK. I asked why she was on the street. She straight forwardly told me “I cannot stop drinking.”
For the next two hours, I chatted with Athabascans, Tlingits (pronounced Klingit), Chicanos, Eskimos. I listened as they told me about lost dreams, addictions, rapes, domestic violence, murder. I sat and listened. Prayed over each foot. Prayed they would feel the Lord’s love.
And every single one-when finished-lingered. They didn’t want to leave. They blessed me, thanked me. And as I looked around, I realized there was a whole cadre of volunteers serving me so that I could serve my guest. There were people who would take my dirty towels and give me fresh ones; those who would change out the water; those who bandaged the damaged feet. Two hours flew by.
April 15 10 a.m. is the next one. I was asked how it went. I replied I would be there for the next one. And I have to thank TNC for giving me this opportunity. I wouldn’t have done it without her!