Kittredge: The Prayer Rug

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Ash Wednesday , the beginning of Lent, was last week. It was also the
day that minister and commentator Susan Cooke Kittredge had some things
put in perspective for her – by a domestic accident that will sound
familiar to many of us.

(Kittredge) When my husband and I were
in our thirties, raising five children and a variety of animals large
and small, the furnishings in our house were functional and cheap. We
flirted with the idea of nice things, but since we could neither afford
them nor imagine protecting them from magic markers, spilled spaghetti
or the trackings of the barn, we settled for function over fancy. After
the children grew up, we focused more on our careers, but when our
parents died, suddenly we found we had inherited some possessions that
we really liked. They had value not because they were worth money, but
rather because they had history and meaning and reminded us of those we
had loved and lost.

Last week I was away when our black
Labrador, Nell, made her way into a closet in the basement, found a gift
box of See’s chocolates and ate the whole thing, cardboard, crinkle
cups and all. She then promptly threw up on the living room rug – the
rug that was a gift from my mother, the same rug that, I am somewhat
ashamed to say, is my favorite possession. The dog was apparently fine –
that Nell threw up was fortunate because chocolate can be lethal to
dogs – but the rug was not.

Hearing about the accident late that
night, I didn’t sleep much, just tossed and turned and wished I were
home so I could what? Worry the rug clean?

Upon my return, I
discovered that the stain was actually a lot bigger and worse than I had
imagined-basically the size of a wheelbarrow. Wired with sleeplessness,
I was agitated. But what really disturbed me was that I was so
disturbed. It’s a thing, I told myself, a foolish material possession.

this happened on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent was not lost on
me. I have always seen Lent as a kind of spring training for Christians,
a spiritual tune up in preparation for the glory of Easter and the rest
of the year. Many of us like to take a break from our normal routines
and engage in some thoughtful reflection at some point during the year;
whether at a retreat or vacation or in the woods; many Christians do
this during Lent.

So this year, Lent began for me not with a smudge of ash on my forehead, but with a mess of chocolate on my rug, humbling me,

me that there are people across the world with nothing, suffering
unimaginable travesties and hardships. And I’m grateful for the
spiritual wake up since I know that whenever I see that blotch of brown
on what I now think of as my prayer rug, I will see a clear caution
against the attachment to things over people. And even over beautiful,
loving, clever if sometimes, mischievous dogs.

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