A few years ago, I wrote an essay about all why I didn’t feel right about hiring housecleaners. Besides the obvious expenses of having someone else do your dirty work, there were also all kinds of uncomfortable class and race inequities brought out by being the mistress of the house. Having a dirty house was easier than navigating these social land mines.
Well, I have a confession to make: as I’ve gotten busier over the past year, we decided that it’s time to hire professional help. Division of labor, and all. Our neighbors recommended a pair of ladies, and for the most part we’ve been very happy with their cleaning. I get so spoiled with their bi-weekly moppings and scrubbings that I start to really notice the dust bunnies and hard water stains during their off-weeks.
Now, I have an even more awkward thing to talk about. Today, for the first time, the housecleaners broke something, and I didn’t know how to react.
I came back inside and saw a flash of yellow on the kitchen counter. Upon closer inspection, I saw that they were shards of ceramic, from a cross painted by Little Brother at one of those DIY pottery shops. My heart sank a little, seeing the bright colors and childish lettering broken into jagged pieces. It was a rough day, full of minor disappointments that chipped away at my patience and my faith in humanity. I know some people deduct the cost of damage out of the fees they pay their “help”, and it would not be unreasonable for me to do so.
It may be within my rights to react that way, but would it be the right way to act? It wasn’t a Ming vase, just a mass-produced ceramic blank decorated by a kindergartener at a suburban strip mall. And it wasn’t just any tchotchke, but a religious symbol of forbearance and forgiveness. Why couldn’t it have been one of the ceramic kittens or dinosaurs, instead? And why couldn’t the person who broke it have been a friend — or one of my kids’ friends? Instead, it had to be my housecleaner, a person already in the awkward relationship of employer-employee.
God, you are not making things easy for me.
I didn’t know what to do so I ignored it. The housecleaner found me at my computer when she finished.
“Grace? I broke this by accident,” she said, “When I was cleaning the shelf, it fell over.”
“Oh, it’s okay,” I responded, with a smile too rigid. Someday, I hope to know how to respond better to situations like this, but for today, I will also extend grace to myself.
* * *
One year later, those pieces of the cross kept creeping back into my thoughts. During this year’s Lenten season, I decided to finally pursue an idea inspired by a comment from a blog reader. Read Putting Together the Pieces of the Cross to find out how these broken pieces found a new life.