I hate doing the dishes. I always have and I probably always will, to be honest. As an adolescent, often my chore was to wash the dishes and thus began my disdain for it. I don’t like how long it takes, I really don’t like the way it makes my hands feel, and I really really don’t like touching the soggy fragments of food caught in the drain. Living in community though, chores are vital to keeping order and peace in the home. Our home operates best when we share the responsibilities of doing chores such as sweeping, moping, cleaning the bathroom, taking out the trash, and you guessed it, doing the dishes.
A few months into living in Haiti, I realized just how much I disliked doing the dishes and how much I complained about it, out loud and in my thoughts. Then I found this quote by Mother Teresa and it changed everything for me: “Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.”
I had never thought about doing the dishes in this way before! So what did I do? I printed this puppy out and slapped it on the wall right in front of our dish washing station. I wanted it right in front of me, big and unavoidable. I love my team and I want all of my actions to reflect that. If all I do is complain, I am not loving and I am failing at my biggest mission in life: love. Every time I am tempted to huff and puff about how gross my hands feel or about how much I want to just go to sleep instead of staying up and washing the dishes, I see this quote and I am called back to love.
Missions is a school of love. In every aspect of life, being a missionary is to be enrolled in the school of love. Every day of my life as a missionary I come to terms with the fact that I love so poorly. I complain, I’m selfish, I’m impatient, I’m not always kind. Missions has a unique way of shining a light on how imperfect my love is –and praise God for that! My mission in Haiti and my mission in life is simple, but a challenge to execute: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37,39). Missions constantly challenges me to reach the heights of love and I have so much hope because I have the best teacher around: Jesus. I am learning to love from Love Himself.
The Church and my parents have always taught me that love is not a feeling, but rather a choice. While I always knew that as truth before, I never fully understood it and I never truly practiced it before missions. A lot of different aspects of missionary life teach me what love is, but I think the kids give me the greatest opportunity to exercise true love. I never really thought that in being a missionary I would become a spiritual mother, but I have become exactly that. The kids are always at our house and I find myself feeling like their mom a lot. What a gift! Many of the kids don’t have good role models in their lives and can’t really rely on receiving love from their parents.
But many times they are very dezod (naughty) children. What do I do then? Do I loose my temper? Do I give in to impatience? What do I do when they are disrespectful one minute and sweet as can be the next? I’ll be real honest: the kids sometimes make me so frustrated I want to pull my hair out. I know those feelings are my humanness and Jesus is calling me to something higher. The answer is always to choose love. When the kids are disrespectful, impatient, loud and obnoxious, and just won’t go home, that is precisely when Jesus calls me to choose to love them. That is what we all want after all, isn’t it? To be chosen and loved. I choose to love them despite them being dezod. I chose to tell them I love them when they call me names. After they break the rules and disobey, I still take them back and I still love them.
My one true wish when my time in Haiti comes to an end is that the people will know that I love them. I think the kids know that I truly love them. Why else wold they keep coming back every day? And at the end of this year I hope my team knows that I love them. I hope that when they think of me they don’t remember how much I complained about the washing the dishes, but rather how much I strived to love everyone.