I never spent much time in clubs, or in discos, so I really don't know what it's like to be on a 'list', that coveted and protected identification of who can get in and who has to wait; maybe all night. Maybe forever.
There is a list at Laundrylove, but everyone gets in.
When we began, people would ask us "but what if someone comes who is not needy? What if someone clearly is not poor and is just taking advantage of the free laundry?"
The first is, "we don't care". All are welcome.
The second is, because we are in part drawn to this work by our love of God and neighbor, "that is between them and God."
So here we were, on a very hot and muggy September night, ready to spend time in an even hotter and muggier laundromat. There is sometimes a nagging worry- what if no one comes?
As you can see by the list, no worries. After over 4 and a half years of doing this, we can count on a full list.
I don't think that the primary reason our regular folks( who are now most of our guests) come is for the free laundry, or groceries, or hot meal. Or for the new offer of free clothing (shoes, hats, backpacks, dress slacks, shorts....)
(Thanks Rory and Faye for making this a regular part of Laundrylove HB now)
I think our guests come now because it is community, a party, a place to relax and be safe. A place to learn about each other, and maybe to find some spiritual energy. It seems that the 'services' are now secondary (albeit an essential part of LL).
So Tom comes because he needs some laundry done and a new pair of shoes, but what he really needed was to tell someone about a tear in his biceps, so that we could confirm that it was serious, and pray for him as he sought medical advice tomorrow after the Xray results were in.
And Giovanna comes because this is where her kids, Kayla and Jose and Nathan come alive. They help out. Kayla hands out cold water that Steve brings early for the line. And they all color and draw chalk people on the front sidewalk, and when they receive some new clothes from Faye, they respond in gratitude by making a video of thanks to the donor. Giovanna has some time to do laundry, talk to Christian about her life, and relax knowing that for 3 hours her kids are having fun in a safe environment around people who really love them.
Paul comes, tonight more animated and blustery than usual, because he knows the volunteers will be patient with him, and listen to his stories of great conquest and wisdom, at least in his own mind.
A new guest comes with his guitar, and as he serenades the line, seems thankful that it's not just laundry tonight, but love. Steve notices he is playing a song from Tommy by The Who, and since he has been recently working on learning 'Sparks', the instrumental, he asks to demonstrate, and soon he and this new guest are sharing tricks on Pete Townsend guitar power chords.
Other new folks drop by, as always, and ask what is going on. Of course these first timers don't have laundry, but they welcome a bag of groceries, and really welcome a home cooked meal. What a gift to us to introduce the walk-in stranger to the unconditional experience of Laundrylove. No questions asked.
Well, OK, if you are doing laundry there are two questions: What is your first name (who cares if it's real)? And how may loads do you have?
So on this hot night, in the middle of the experience, at about 8 pm, here is what is going on in that moment:
Dinner is served. Chicken with Rice.
Music is blasting. Sounds like David Bowie?
Josh is dancing. His family, all disabled in some form, watches as Josh, like Giovanna's kids, is free to dance and rejoice in a safe place with people who will take him just as he is.
Washers are full. Dryers are nearly full. Volunteers are talking with guests and each other.
Nathan is next door as Kevin the barber gives him a haircut, paid for by Laundrylove.
Faye and Rory are out in the back giving away shoes to Tom and kids clothes to Marie.
Nayyer and Amed are rounding up guests for dinner.
Damian and his girlfriend are out front watching Jose draw body outlines on the sidewalk, but also dodge the squirt gun that Kayla has brought out.
Shannon is choreographing the movement, with Shevawn's help, of guests from the darkness of the alley behind the laundromat to the open washers. It's a complex game of supply and demand.
It looks like a Robert Altman movie. Dozens of scenes happening at the same time.
It sounds like a Charles Ives symphony. A guitar jam juxtaposed against the tunes from the blue tooth speaker sounds of Gen Y music, with a drone of dryer and washer Whooosh Whooosh.
It's a miracle. It may not be water to wine. But it's where world need gets smothered by love and a desire to do a little good for a few hours.
And it all begins with a list.