Love can transform menial tasks

A crisis broke out in the upstairs hall at 3 a.m. “Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa, Grammy, Aunt Lorraine!” the voice called out. Everyone else was asleep, I realized, as I peeked out the door and saw Seth, 10, crying piteously.

“I threw up,” he reported, tears streaming down his face.

“Don’t cry, everything will be all right,” I told him, and just then his grandfather, Charles, emerged from downstairs, where he’d been sleeping.

He tenderly comforted the boy, got him clean pajamas and watched over him most of the night. He also cleaned the bathroom, a task I certainly didn’t envy.

Seth’s grandmother and grandfather had driven up from Florida, picked me up in Decatur, and then we traveled to their son and daughter-in-law’s home in North Carolina. When we arrived, Seth was sitting on the front porch, attired in his white karate jacket, waiting for us. He and his sister, Alexis, 12, ran toward us and bestowed generous hugs, as we emerged from the car.

The morning after the 3 a.m. crisis, I went into the kitchen and saw his grandfather making breakfast. “You’re a very good grandfather,” I said, because I knew he’d lost hours of sleep.

Still, he didn’t see his actions as praiseworthy, because tending to the child was a natural outgrowth of his love. In fact, rather than complaining about cleaning up, he said he felt privileged to help him.

In Mark’s Gospel, the disciples James and John ask Christ a favor. “Grant to us, that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.” They’re thinking in worldly terms, wanting the best seats in heaven.

When the other disciples realize what the twosome are after, they’re miffed. And everyone is surprised, when Jesus says that whoever wants the first place must become a servant to the others.

Talk about turning the tables on them! He says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” This is a shocking statement for those who expected the messiah to be a powerful ruler with a bevy of servants.

When a man saw Mother Teresa cleaning the maggot-infested wounds of a poor man in Calcutta, he said, “I wouldn’t do that for a million dollars.” She replied, “Neither would I.”

Serving people brings joy to followers of Christ, while for others, it may be a major drag. After all, folks who clean houses, change diapers in nursing homes and collect trash get little applause.

But these menial tasks can be transformed, when done in the spirit of Christ, who washed the dirty feet of his disciples. He never promised worldly awards to his followers, but said instead, “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” This statement suggests there will be big surprises in heaven.

Putting others first means denying our selfish side, which wants the biggest portion of food and the coziest chair. Putting others first means giving blood, serving in soup kitchens and tending to the dying.

We needn’t travel to India like Mother Teresa to find people to serve. We may find a child, an elderly relative or a disheartened spouse in our own homes, crying for help in the middle of the night.

Lorraine’s email address is