Growing up as a PK in Minnesota, I learned a lot about patience. Not because it was something that was strongly encouraged as a belief to hold onto during Sunday school sessions, but because as a kid, I practically lived at the church on Sundays, Wednesdays during Lent and major holidays.
There was a gang of us church kids: the organists’ kids, my baby bro and the few choir singers’ kids whose parents would sing in both Sunday services. After attending one of the services and Sunday school, we were left to quietly roam the church halls seeking out something to do to pass the time until we could go home.
A small, protestant church building in the mid-west did not allow for many kid-friendly activities. After drawing quietly on the classroom blackboards grew dull, I would usually wander inside the janitor’s walk-in closet to chill. Here, it didn’t really feel like ‘church’ and there was always different stuff to look at on the shelves. I would just sit there, stare and wonder if the particular toliet bowl cleaner that was there was any better than the stuff that was there last week.
And it’s moments like this that make you realize that you have been blessed with some special ability, when just sitting and looking at janitorial supplies becomes a zen-like form of entertainment to pass the time. It really is a skill to just sit and be still for hours without really being aware of what’s occurring or what’s being said. It’s like being in a deep meditative trance and it came in handy during a recent visit to France.
This recent trip to France occurred over the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur and I had the opportunity to attend a synagogue for the closing prayer service. The service was in French and Hebrew which of course meant that I understood practically nothing at all; but it didn’t matter. It was a time for me to be quiet and reflective.
I came, practiced respect for the differences of others and stood for close to an hour in my patient trance until the blowing of the shofar. While I was standing there in this French, Jewish temple, I was quietly amazed that I, the Minnesota pastor’s kid, who had just left Mauritius after having had a day off for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan and who would soon be getting ready to eat sweet cakes for the upcoming Hindu holiday of Diwali, was fortunate enough to be in the mix of so many different religions.
As I was leaving the synagogue I noticed a mop in a bucket propped up in one of the stairwell corners. A little mop. A little bucket. I was reminded of the janitor’s closet from so long ago and I thought to myself that even if we are all different, at least we can all come together over the art of the custodian.