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The doorbell rings.

Behind the screen door stands my plumber Rob, the beak of his cap shielding the morning sun from his eyes. I smile, knowing I am in good hands, skillful and sinewy. For years he has kept my kitchen and bathroom in good repair. More significant than his skill, though, are his cheerful manner, his willingness to address any problem, and solutions are found within the drawers of his battered toolbox or the compartments of his van. Unlike other plumbers I have had, he also wipes up watery streaked floors with paper towels that he carries with him, then disposes them.

On a deeper level, I view Rob’s lifelong profession from a spiritual perspective. Instead of wearing a suit and tie to work, he pulls on clean jeans, a red T-shirt, canvas shoes, this morning’s attire. Instead of scrutinizing proposals in boardrooms, he studies clogged sinks, leaking faucets. Instead of lunching at gourmet restaurants, he snacks in his truck, in between customers. Instead of ordering state-of-the-art adornments, he replaces worn fixtures or makes others serviceable. Such humble work has etched Rob’s servant-character, not unlike Jesus, beautiful to behold.

On an even deeper level, I liken Rob’s knack of cleaning up stinking messes and restoring water flow with Spirit’s action in human hearts, gone amuck with disorders. The process can be complicated, costly, even exhausting, but with the restoration of the flow of grace/water, exhilarating life returns in its myriad colors.

The Spirit-Plumber is still working on me.


There is a black man, bearded, short, muscular, who pushes a shopping cart filled with his sleeping bag and bulging sacks up and down a business street in our community. This has been his home for decades. At intervals, he pauses, sings with deep soul, rants to invisible audiences, or crouches over sticks, pointed end to end. His name is Johnny.

Yet he is well cared for in all seasons.

An anonymous network of helpers maintains his lifestyle: owners of shops, of grocery stores, and of restaurants, together with doctors, nurses, and the parish priest. Dollars offered by pedestrians are often found tucked under the stone planters in front of the church, his way of saying thanks. And during cold spells, police have housed and fed him in the jail. When younger, a benefactor provided him with round trip bus tickets to a warmer city.

All of this gives me pause…

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of Matthew (25:35-37): “For I was hungry and you gave me food; thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me; in prison and you came to see me.”

Years ago, a wise woman told me that nothing is as it seems.





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