Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Help (02/20/06)
TITLE: Lesson In Cleaning A Room
By Edy T Johnson
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Besides being a cozy homebody (he was the youngest of 14 children, after all), Dad also had a grand gift for teaching. With a parsonage full of his own children, Dad often pitched in to lend a hand when Mom became overwhelmed with work. One day he decided to give us a lesson in housecleaning. This would be more fun than drudgery, with our Dad, full of enthusiasm, in charge of the troops!
The dining room had become something of a general catch-all playroom mess.
"The secret," he confided to us children, "is first of all to give yourselves some place to rest your eyes, to give you a goal, to encourage you to keep working." He proceeded to
sweep all the clutter from one corner of the room, so he could set his tableau of encouragement.
Both of our parents had a flair for the dramatic, which made watching him in action quite entertaining (and inspiring). He nestled a small square table in one corner, next to the daybed, talking all the while. This would become a little reading nook, he said (when the daybed wasn't
otherwise occupied with a sick child). Next, he smoothed out a cut velvet scarf (salvaged from some second-hand store) to cover the tabletop, while explaining how to arrange this
corner to look most inviting. A small lamp came next, followed by a set of bookends to hold three or four books and a couple pictures for the wall. When he finished, this corner
vignette did look quite charming, like a school-play stage setting, just waiting for the action to begin.
"Now," he said, "remember to keep this corner in sight, as you work your way around the room!"
The challenge before us, we all pitched in to set our own stage. As we finished the perimeter of the room, Mom looked in on us.
"Do you have to put everything on the floor?" she asked in dismay at the mound of clutter growing in the center of the room. "But, we're cleaning!" we said cheerfully. Pointing to the heap of junk, she asked, "What about that?"
"Don't worry, Mama!" we assured her, "We'll clean up the pile later."
Ya, sure! As long as we turned our backs on the mounting collection of stuff for disposal, we could compliment ourselves on the wonderful job we had done, cleaning the periphery of the room! Dad had gone back to work at his church office, next door, and we ran out of motivation before we got to the real work, sorting through all that leftover mess. We were satisfied that we had earned a rest from our labors. Why not just enjoy that little reading nook and curl up with a good book? Such a wonderful distraction from
that "pile" of work staring us in the face! I'm ashamed to admit it took us another day to finish sorting and gathering up all the papers, toys, dirty socks, and apple cores. But, once we could actually see the floor, again, and sweep up the last of the crumbs into the dustpan, we all
breathed a real sigh of satisfaction.
"If we could just KEEP this room tidy, in the first place, we wouldn't find housework such a chore!" was the conclusion I reached, after this initial exercise in cleaning a whole
room. But, I’ve learned that isn’t always possible. My own dining room table, today, is a collection of interrupted projects going nowhere soon!
I tell folks that table is like my aging brain. I know what I'm looking for is under there, somewhere, in that pile of clutter. But, I just can't seem to get at it!
Now, while my house and mind may be overloaded with too many interesting options calling for attention, my heart is surprisingly free of such distress. For that, I can only give thanks to our Eternal Helper, who has so kindly composed the affections of my heart.
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