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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hand Towels and Toenail Clippers

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:14-15

Jesus was always doing something that had never been done before, stirring up a variety of reactions. In John 13, however, Jesus did something that was done every day, hundreds of times, but it was still shocking. He did what no one else in the room had even considered doing. He washed his disciples' feet.
Feet were a most unpleasant body part in Jesus' world. They were exposed to dirt, mud, and whatever else had been deposited in the street by people or animals. The tasks of dealing with feet were left to the lowest-ranked slave or servant in the house. Jesus chose this lowest position and most menial task to show his disciples-and us-how to go about the business of loving each other.
Bill was a retired teacher. He spent his career teaching history and caring deeply for high school seniors. When he retired, he missed being involved in the students' lives and making a difference. He needed, and soon found, an outlet for his caring energy. He began visiting the shut-ins from his church. He especially enjoyed his time with Miss Mary, a fellow retired teacher. They would swap stories for hours, laughing, even crying sometimes.
An unexpected surgery halted Bill's visits for a number of weeks. He looked forward to visiting Miss Mary again. Bill knocked on her door a first time and then a second time. He heard her familiar voice from way back in the kitchen: "Come on in. It's open." What a shock to see his friend in a wheelchair.
"Miss Mary, what in the world happened?"
"It's my feet, Bill. They hurt so badly I can hardly walk. I drug out this old thing to get me by until I can see a doctor."
"Do you mind if I have a look?" Bill was always a gentleman. Miss Mary nodded in approval, and Bill sank to his knees. He ever so gently removed one house shoe and then the other. What he saw filled his heart with compassion. Miss Mary's arthritic hands had prevented her from cutting her toenails. The nails had grown over the ends of her toes, curved under, and were cutting into the bottoms of her feet.
Bill found a large pan and filled it with warm water. Placing the pan in front of Miss Mary, he invited her to a soothing soak. He reached in his pocket, took out a nail clipper, and set to work relieving Miss Mary's misery. He clipped, he rinsed, and he massaged. When he finished, he dried each foot with a towel, took Miss Mary by the hand, and helped her out of the wheelchair.
Bill had done what no one else had bothered to do. He had shown her the full extent of his love. Miss Mary, for the first time in weeks, walked to the stove and made a pot of tea to share with her friend.
When I think of serving others, I often pray, "Lord, make me a toenail clipper."
Quiet Moments for Teachers by Linda Page