Rubber gloves, green scrubber, bleach cleaner. These aren’t what I usually think of as the tools of compassion, but they were the ones I had in my hands today.
My sweet, funny, kind, smart (really smart, he’d want me to emphasize) friend Joe died very unexpectedly a few days ago, although his friends and family only learned of his passing last night. In the midst of their shock, Joe’s amazing circle of friends gathered together and started figuring out what all needed to be done. Who needs to be called? Can we find a way to contact that person? Who can go see her? They looked to each other for support, but even in the hard blow of sudden grief they looked outward to see who would need a hand to hold or a shoulder to cry on, and they made sure it was there. You can tell a lot about a person by the friends he gathers around him; that right there should tell you a helluva lot about Joe.
I’m on the outside of that group. I know some of the people, and I’ve heard about all of them from Joe over the years, but this isn’t my close circle of friends. So when more friends needed to be called or people needed to be tracked down, there was little I could do. What I could do, though, was clean. Certain areas of Joe’s house needed some hard-core cleaning. (Suffice it to say that this was a necessity, not just a kindness.)
That’s where the rubber gloves come in. I spent a number of hours over there today scrubbing on my hands and knees, along with a couple of other friends of Joe’s. This was what I could do. This was the offering of compassion I could make to Joe’s family and friends, to take one burden off of them. As hard as it was to be there, at that moment there was no place else in the world that I wanted to be, because this was the offering of love that I could make to my friend.