“Ms. Zimanske, for once, will you please not bring anything and allow us to provide for you?”
I re-read my friend’s short e-mail reply and decided that while lighthearted, a kernel of truth remained behind his joking tone. He wanted to serve – in this case, let me crash at his and his wife’s apartment before an early morning flight. It pained me to ask them to take me in for the night and on top of that, drive me to the airport early on a Saturday morning. They graciously agreed to the simple favor and chided me for considering my request an inconvenience.
I’m notorious for offering to bring food to a get-together, helping wash dishes at a dinner party, and insisting on a plan that is most convenient for others who are involved. I’m the kind of person who brings her own shower towel for an overnight visit, picks up a friend at the airport late at night or leaves the group tip at a restaurant. I make the choices I do to be an above-average house guest, a caring friend and an overall thoughtful person. My intuition is to serve, to help and to accommodate.
But the root of friendship is love and service, and this is a two-way street. Think of Holy Thursday, the beginning of the Easter Triduum. Catholics across the world re-create the scene of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Parishioners wash other parishioners’ feet while the assembly looks on, and we often hear about the importance of service and love for one another. I have always understood this aspect of our Catholic faith, and the washing of the feet story in the Gospel of John is very familiar to me, yet this symbolic act did not resonate in my heart until that short e-mail message from my friend appeared in my inbox.
I have learned that a helping spirit is blessed, but we cannot fully realize the blessings until we let them come back to us. We must give up our sense of control and stubbornness to allow others to serve us, just as we work to serve them.
In letting others provide, we let God provide through them. Catholic singles, like myself, may have difficulty allowing others to help, serve and provide when we so often concentrate on accepting our singlehood and independence. But in the New Testament, Paul writes to Timothy to encourage his people to “put their hope in God, who richly provides…” Just like our friends, He’s waiting to wash our feet and provide for us.
We just have to let them.