Hey everyone. This poem/free-write I wrote was inspired by a homily I heard from Father Steve Gavit. Hope you enjoy:
Cereal for dinner again. That’s college, living on a tight budget. I’ve grown accustomed to Cheerios helping me get through my 14-page papers. I’ve also grown accustomed to washing the dishes a week later. It’s my least favorite job. All the sights and smells of dishes piled up, creating a mini-compost heap in my sink. It’s discouraging. I’d give anything to just snap my fingers and have them be magically squeaky clean. Alas, I’m forced to hand-wash every dish. Every filthy, crusty, dirty dish. You’d think by now I’d learn to soak my plates before putting them in the sink. I’d think you should stop making assumptions. Regardless, it’s time to get at it. I grab my dish soap, rubber gloves, sponge, towel. It’s time. I feel like an exterminator, ready to eliminate any piece of bacteria or leftover pepperoni in my way.
Twenty minutes in and I’m still scrubbing. My fingers are pruning. Water’s splashing all over my sweatpants. The clean, dripping dishes drying in the rack by the sink shout “Thank God, I can finally breathe!” One thing I notice as I scrub off crunchy Mac & Cheese bits is that the cleaner the dishes get, the dirtier the sponge gets. Sure, I ring it out every once in a while. But in the meantime, ketchup, milk, noodles, and honey get absorbed into the holes of the sponge. I stand there and think about that while my mini assembly-line continues. Think about how, in some ways, that little sponge is like me.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a listener. I open my door for anyone to enter, allowing them to relieve themselves of any issues and stress they may have burdening them. Sometimes they seek advice. Other times, they just need someone to listen. I understand. I listen. Because listening is something you don’t find these days. In fact, when was the last time you really listened to someone? Do you ever picture yourself in their shoes? Try to understand them? Care about what they’re saying at all? Or do you spend your whole time thinking about appropriate responses? Are you focused on the other person, or yourself?
When people talk, I listen. Like a sponge, I soak up all they give me. The good and the bad. If it’s on their plate, I’ll absorb it. Part of them becomes part of me. Sometimes I get so caught up in listening, I forget how to speak about myself. Or do I just not bother trying anymore? What’s the point when, if someone dares to ask about me, they interrupt to talk about themselves as I try to answer? It’s just easier to listen. Soak it in. But then, I get angry. “Why am I the sponge?” I cry to no one. “Why is it never me who gets to unload?” “Where is my sponge to take some of this off of me?”
“Trust in the Lord,” I’m told. “Pray.” Pray? Prayer is a monologue. Me talking to air. I’m a listener, I don’t do talk. Especially to a wooden crucifix on the wall.
“Listen,” I hear. Suddenly, it’s a dialogue. Two people, each transmitting and receiving. I’m hesitant. Why give myself to something that is just in my head? To something who, if even real, should not care about me. He is God. Creator of Heaven and Earth. Of all things visible and invisible. Why would I matter? If He wants to listen to someone, let Him listen to the cries of a child of an abusive father. The pleas of the eighty year old on a hospital bed, dying of colon cancer. I’ll just listen.
“So listen,” I hear. Suddenly, I find myself staring at the crucifix. The man nailed to the cross. I’ve seen it my whole life. Only now, I began to listen. His chest. “Those lashes,” I hear. “Each scar represents the sins I’ve absorbed for you.” His hands. “Those nails, they were pounded in as I absorbed all the hate man had against his fellow man.” The cross. “As the blood poured from every cut, the cross was a sponge, absorbing all I couldn’t contain.”
I started to see it. He did understand. I was in the presence of a fellow sponge. A man who absorbed all of my sins. All of my hate. Absorbed it and took it to the grave. Yet when he rang himself out, rising on the third day, the crud that he had absorbed didn’t ooze out. It was replaced with love. His love poured out to all. He loves me, and He will listen.
I drop my sponge. I drop to my knees. For the first time, I’m given a chance to speak to someone who will truly listen. A fellow sponge far mightier than I. I kneel in the presence of the cross.