When I was growing up, my mother wore an apron every day. She donned it early in the morning and didn’t take it off until the kitchen was cleared after supper. She did everything in an apron. She stoked the coal furnace, made us breakfast, washed clothes, cleaned the house, picked green beans, made dumplings, and even fed the chickens–all while wearing an apron. She wasn’t the only woman who wore an apron back then. In the 50’s and early 60’s, many a “housewife” wore one.
I was wondering: Why do we wear aprons anyway? We wear them because life can get messy. Aprons shield us from the dirt, dust, spills, and spots that are an inevitable part of engaging with life. We wear aprons to protect ourselves–especially while serving others. An apron says, “You sit down and relax. I’ll take care of that.”
On the night before he died, while dining with his friends, Jesus tied a towel around his waist. He made a make-shift apron. Then he bent down and proceeded to wash the feet of his disciples, a task ordinarily assigned to a servant or slave. As someone has said, “Jesus donned an apron and redefined success.” I like that. It means Jesus didn’t define success as power or material wealth or worldly achievement. For Jesus, success was service. It was all about wearing an apron.
But it’s more than merely wearing an apron and serving another. It’s HOW we serve that’s important. If you have ever had a waitperson who was crabby, impatient, distracted, or inattentive once the food was served, you know what I’m talking about. HOW the food is served is as vital as the food itself. So too, HOW we serve others is as important as the service we provide.
When a man is made a bishop, he is given two symbols of his new office: a miter (the hat) and a crosier (the shepherd’s crook.) Someone has suggested that maybe every new bishop should also be given an apron to remind him that being a bishop is essentially about service. (When a friend of mine was made bishop a few years back, I sent him an apron. It was a bright red, heavy-duty apron. On the bib was written in thick black letters: REAL MEN WEAR APRONS!)
When my mother died, I took one of her aprons. So did my sister. So did some of the other women in my family. Now before I don my mother’s apron, I kiss it reverently—just as a priest vesting for Mass kisses the stole he drapes around the back of his neck. My mother’s apron is holy. It is one of the most sacred things I own. It was what she wore all those years as she joyfully served her way into eternity.
Does (did) your mother/grandmother wear an apron? Do you ever wear an apron?
Do you know someone who serves people well? How does their service make the people feel? If you have ever experienced “poor” or “bad” service, how did it make you feel?
What individuals in our current society need our service most?
PS: A big thank you for your prayers for last weekend’s retreat conference in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I was impressed and inspired by the many people I met there–especially the Sisters and lay men and women who are serving so selflessly in this lovely state!
I reached back in time for today’s song: “We Are Made for Service” by the Dameans.
I invite you to respond below to this reflection and/or song: