Yesterday evening, just as my husband and I were leaving home to attend a small barbeque, he discovered water in the downstairs laundry room. He cleaned it up and then discovered water in the bathroom next door and also in the hallway. Luckily we don’t have carpet in these areas, but it was still unsettling. There was enough water to drench a number of towels. I checked outside for a running hose, but everything was dry. We checked the water heater and the bathroom sink (also both dry) as possible sources of the problem. We didn’t think it could be the washer because we hadn’t washed clothes for a few days.
But after my husband moved the washing machine so I could sop up water beneath it, I found the problem. Where the hose emerged from the wall, there were tiny green shards. Upon further inspection, these turned out to be pieces of shredded broccoli. My husband had just made a broccoli salad for the barbeque and run the extra bits through the garbage disposal. I guess the broccoli was the last straw as far as our old pipes were concerned. It caused the pipes to clog, and the water backed up to flood the laundry room. We cleaned up as best we could and then left for the barbeque half an hour late. Life can sometimes feel like one frustration after another.
In yesterday’s Gospel reading, Jesus prays for his disciples shortly before he ascends into heaven. He asks God to protect them as they seek to fulfill their purpose in the world of spreading the Gospel. But there is another line in these verses from John that is sometimes overlooked. Jesus prays, “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.” We tend to focus on Jesus’ prayer for our protection and overlook that he also prayed that we might have joy as we go about our lives. I cling to this. I especially cling to it when I’m trying not to freak out because our basement has just flooded.
So this morning I called our plumber bright and early. I wasn’t optimistic. He is an excellent plumber. He charges reasonable rates. I assumed I’d be lucky to have him out before the week was up. But as I explained the situation, he said he could come over first thing. I was flabbergasted. And elated. I did not expect to have the problem fixed right away.
Sure enough Dale arrived within the hour. As he set up his equipment, he shared with me what he had been up to since his last visit about three years ago. He told me about his wife’s last year of teaching, how they had recently bought a motorhome in preparation for her retirement. We talked about life during the pandemic and growth in our city. We talked as Dale leaned his ladder against our roof, preparing to run a snake down our plumbing vent. We talked about his own plans for retirement, and shared stories about a friend we have in common. We talked so long that I started to get anxious. I was worried I was keeping Dale from all his other customers—also with urgent plumbing issues. I was worried I wouldn’t meet my deadline for this particular TVPrays post. But Dale seemed to really enjoy our conversation, and so did I.
When Dale was about to leave, he said something that made me think he had read my mind. “Don’t worry about us talking so long—you haven’t made me late for other appointments.” He added, “I like to spend time with people and enjoy my day, and that’s what I was doing.”
Dale’s words made me think of Jesus’ prayer that we might have joy. I was deeply moved that Dale made joy a priority in his day. He could easily have done one, maybe two more house calls in the time it took for us to catch up with each other’s lives, but he chose to make less money and have more joy. It was a wonderful example to me, a beautiful witness of yesterday’s Gospel lesson.
When Dale left I gave him a check and a few cookies. I told him that our small plumbing disaster had made for a wonderful, joyful start to my week.