What does ‘foot washing’ mean to you? For me it brings childhood memories of basins of water spread out between benches in our Mennonite church sanctuary. I can picture women, with stockings removed, sprinkling warm water over the foot of another and wiping it with a towel. These feet were never dirty of course, and certainly did not ‘need’ washing. But the feet that Jesus washed were not at all clean. Neither are the feet of most of those who live on the streets of America’s cities.
In college, we practiced foot washing in our students’ fellowship, but in a more informal way. Each person could choose someone with whom to wash feet and pray for. I even remember once having that exchange with a good friend (someone by the name of Omondi) :>)
Maybe ‘foot washing’ does not carry a literal memory for you, but rather the well-known symbolic connotation of service to others.
We were privileged to spend last week with our son Michael and the LA Catholic Worker community. After serving meals to those less privileged for several days, as LACW does regularly, Friday brought a different expression of Christ’s love. On Fridays, Michael washes the feet of those who live in the streets. Yes, literally. Equipped with not only the iconic basin and towel, but also with clippers, brushes, nail files, creams and lotions, he gently and skillfully handles these precious people and their calloused feet. The work involves not only cleaning and trimming, but also removing ingrown toenails and corns, and foot massages.
Sitting nearby, I identified myself as Michael’s mother to one man he was serving. “Really? You are his Mother? Ooh, you should be very proud of your son. He is a very good doctor! He takes such good care of me. He knows exactly how to do this job. I trust him, even when it hurts.”
Foot washing means something very different to me now. And you?