Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Window cleaning

This week's INM Irish regional newspapers' column.

Michael Commane
The older I get the more inclined I am to think that it's the little things that matter. So often the little things can give us such unexpected pleasure and joy. Also, it's the little things that often give people away, tell us about how they think and feel.

Last Monday week was a dark miserable day, at least in Dublin. One of those winter days when it is trying hard to rain but just doesn't manage to pick up the courage to do it. I had finished doing a job and had some free time before heading out to buy a vacuum cleaner.

With time on my hands it would have been easy to have done nothing, all the time pretending I was gainfully employed.

It must be at least two years, maybe longer, since I cleaned the front downstairs window in my house. I had noticed for some time how dirty it was but behind the venetian blind it wasn't too difficult to ignore the dirt.

With a basin of water and a newspaper, sleeves rolled up I cleaned the small window.
The end result was simply fabulous. There was a shine or sheen on the window. The glass had been transformed. Not a speck of dirt or grit on it. I stood back and looked at my job of work. Guess what, I was as proud as punch. And then to sit in the room and look out through the glass. Wow, reality outside the window looked so much clearer.

Okay, I'm making a big thing of it and you might well laugh at my window cleaning operation.

Many years ago I heard a story about one of our priests. He was not in a good place and was inclined to do little work. A fellow Dominican suggested that if he went out and cut the grass he might well begin to find the road to recovery. I'm not for a moment suggesting that depression or any sort of mind-illness can be cured by such simple means. But doing things for ourselves, especially doing physical work can be a great help to our general wellbeing.

There are so many things that we can do for ourselves but it seems we live in times when it is so easy to go an alternative route.

If my late father knew that I no longer repair a bicycle puncture he would spin at great speed in his grave. And the waste involved. These days when I get a puncture I go to the nearest bicycle shop and they insert a new tube. What happens the punctured tube? It's thrown in a bin.

Cleaning a window or mending a puncture are tiny incidentals in the greater scheme of things. But as I said, it's the little things that give us away. It's the little things can so often enhance our lives. 

Every day in my role as a hospital chaplain I see people doing the tiniest and simplest of things for other human beings. They probably have no idea of the impact of their actions. Yet it's glaringly clear the wonder of what they are doing. The kind word, that smile make such a difference.

For a day or two after cleaning the window I found myself looking at it and through it, as proud as punch, delighted with myself. Was even wondering if there was any glass there at all.

See, it's the little things that can mean so much and make such a difference too.
Doesn't Bruce Springsteen sing a song that's titled ''It's the little things that count"?

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