Despite what it may seem I don’t actually come to Iona for a holiday or retreat. This is not hours upon hours of prayer and meditation. I work, WORK, physical labor 5 and a half days a week for up to 7.5 hours a day (it is Scotland, you get a proper tea break). In the past I have provided childcare, worked in the kitchen as a cook and this year I am a housekeeper. I set tables, clean up, do dishes, laundry, toilets and my least favorite, showers. It is physical enough that I tend to take a nap most days. And its not just volunteers, guests are invited (expected) to participate in the life of the community by doing small tasks that they are assigned. Some guests are funny in that they go to extreme lengths to avoid their tasks and others literally take it so seriously that we jokingly tell them they can’t leave.
A larger problem comes in our volunteer living quarters. We share a common living space, and it is not uncommon for the younger folk to simply dash off and leave their plates, cups and debris where they were sitting. If they pick it up, often it only makes it to the countertop next to the sink. Cloths seem to be randomly strewn about all over the place, along with duvets from off their beds. In our hallway they have created a long line of their shoes, which often get damp and smelly. Now the rationale is that they don’t want the smelly shoes in their room, in exchange we have a smelly hallway. Basically, it becomes your worst frat house nightmare. And when you factor in 15 people vying for one working shower (second shower spews only bracingly cold water), things can become very, very nasty. We are supposed to clean as a group on Tuesday evenings, but often we have farewell parties on Tuesdays and cleaning takes a distant second place. A minor miracle occurred this past week in that we had everyone present in the common area at one time so we all pitched in and cleaned.
Part of it is just an awareness on the part of the young people that stuff doesn’t simply take care of itself. i told a young man to be sure and pick up after himself and he questioned why. I responded, “because I already cleaned that.” “But I don’t do that at home.” No, your mother does it, and she doesn’t live here.
There are all kinds of thin places
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