By Ricca McGowan
Perspective. It’s your view, your outlook…how you see the world. It is what lies behind each person’s eyes. It can change your situation. The power it has is ridiculously amazing. It is the difference between your heart healing or remaining broken. A professor once told me that we are all looking out of the same window but it appears to be a different scene because of our individual perspective. Perspective is what allows the richest man to feel poor and the poorest man to feel rich. It’s often biased and subjective. Rarely do we get the opportunity to see someone else’s.
When a man in church stood up and announced that he needed some people to wash feet, my initial inclination was to think, “wash feet? Jesus washed feet. What a wonderful experience this will be. A chance for me to humble myself just like Jesus did…put my feet in his shoes.” But it was nothing like what Jesus did. My intentions were different. My motives? Corrupt. My heart? Tainted. My perspective…skewed. As I went with my friend Whitney to sign up, I felt proud, like I was doing something worth recognition. That was a Sunday. Steve, the guy who was in charge, let us know that we were to meet at the church the following Saturday early in the morning. Immediately after I left, I felt like my task was done. Show people I wanted to wash feet, Check… actually go and wash feet? That is another story.
As the week progressed the task totally slipped my mind until I received a text from Whitney asking if I was still going and if I wanted her to pick me up. My mind raced a million miles per second. How could he ask us to do such a thing? Go to the ghetto of Mexico? Sure! Mingle with the people on the streets? Done that! But wash feet that have not touched clean water or soap in over six months? Who does that! But I couldn’t back out now. I replied to Whitney saying, “Of course! I will see you in the morning!” Even I could sense the fake anticipation. All night I thought of things I could say to back out. I was tired. My grades were due. I had to finish my thesis, but in the end I knew I just needed to go. As we met up with the others I was perplexed by they cheerfulness and I began to imitate it. Yet still I was confused as to why they had such joy about going off to do what I saw as such a joyless task.
When we reached the metro stop we were greeted by several men and a couple of women who were excited to see people had come to visit with them. As they overanxiously came to embrace us with the traditional hug and kiss from Mexico, all I could think of (and anyone who knows me, will know this to be true) was “OMG! I need my alcohol swabs”. My perspective? I’m better than this. I shouldn’t be here. The smells, the dirtiness, the noise, the unfamiliarity all made me uncomfortable. I wanted to go home. If they really wanted clean feet, couldn’t they just clean them? Obviously since they had not, they do not mind dirty.
When they were notified why we were there I saw all kinds of reactions. Immediately I saw some humbled by the realization of what we came to do. Eyes lowered in shame because of what we were asking of them. I am sure many from my group came to bless those less fortunate, but in reality, I knew I was there to be blessed. You see, the past few months at my new job I had become someone I really did not like. Someone who says mean things about people and who vocally expresses my displeasure not caring about anyone else’s feelings. I was looking for something to make me feel better about myself, some assurance that I really was the good-hearted person I used to know. When I began to realize this I broke my trance to look at the man who was in front of me, the one whose feet I would be washing. My heart immediately broke as I saw him remove his socks and begin wiping his feet in efforts to remove the dirt and make my job as painless as possible. I kneeled down humbled by his consideration and embarrassment. As hard as it was for me to sit on the pee-stained floor I realized at that moment it was even harder for him to become vulnerable to me and reveal what his shoes and socks once hid. Think about it, how many of us would feel comfortable taking our shoes off after a long day of work for a stranger? Furthermore, how many of us would allow that stranger to cleanse our feet knowing the smells and grime that lay beneath? My mind went to several different things and as I began to pray for forgiveness it took to back to a time when I was with my grandma.
My grandma was a strong, courageous woman. G-ma was epitome of selflessness. I can remember going to over 3 church services on Sundays because each would ask her to play piano for their worship team. I remember my sisters and I joking that the bible said do all things in moderation and even too much church could be as lethal as too much wine. I can honestly say I never heard her grumble or complain. She never stuck her nose up at someone else and would go over and beyond to make each and every one of her children, grandchildren and their children feel special. Not a birthday went by when I did not receive something in the mail whether it was a Christmas card scratched out with Happy Birthday rewritten or a sweet potato pie sent via US mail in a manila envelope. She lived dto serve with her hands. Ironically my grandma had a degenerative disease that soon enough melted her joints and muscles away as if they were ice on a burning stove. I remember being at my Aunts house where she was staying and she asking someone to cut her fingernails because they had begun to dig into her palms and she could not do it herself. My heart broke when I heard my cousin say, “Grandma, you can wait a few days. It is not that bad”. I was so angry, hurt but most of all ashamed that this was my family saying this to my grandma who would move heaven and earth for us. I began going to see grandma as often as I could, if only to cut her nails and I remember g-ma LOVED getting Vaseline rubbed on her feet. If I was in a good mood, I would do that too. But my shame to my cousin and the response they gave was exactly what I imagined G-ma would have felt towards me had she been at that metro stop with me on Saturday.
I began to pray as I washed this mans feet and my heart, my view and my perspective began to change. I began to see this man through the eyes of my G-ma. He became someone worthless to someone who was worthy. I scrubbed for a while. I added iodine, got between the toes and underneath the nails and sooner or later I was doing it with a smile. I actually had joy and I felt honored that this man of so much worth would deem me, Ricca, worthy enough to wash his feet. I felt good. But the best was yet to come. When his feet were all cleaned and his toenails were all cut, I pulled out a brand new pair of white long socks and his eyes lit up like a child on Christmas day. It was the simplest thing that made him grateful. One of the things I all to often take for granted… clean socks. It was as if I just handed him an iPhone or a flat screen tv and his joy made it all worth it. My perspective changed. Jesus hung out with the harlots, the drunks, and the tax collectors. Not because they were such good company but because he was able to see them through the perspective of the father. He saw them as being worthy. This holiday season I challenge you to change your perspective and begin seeing people and the world through the eyes of the father.