There was no one else home at Casa San Dimas when three young men showed up at the door, the day after I’d returned from my end-of-3-years discernment period. I was on a spiritual high from the worldwide conference, and from the decision I’d made to recommit to InnerCHANGE and Comunidad San Dimas for the next season.
I hadn’t seen two of these young Hondurans for months, but they seemed very preoccupied. It turned out that they’d come to San Francisco from Oakland because the cousin of the new boy had been stabbed in the Tenderloin district that afternoon and taken to General Hospital. They didn’t know what to do – they knew people at the hospital were going to ask awkward questions about age, parents, address etc. In a case like this, my pale face and innocent mid-western accent might come in handy.
One of the boys who lives in Casa San Dimas drove us over to the emergency room. It was arranged that I would accompany Dony, the cousin of the injured boy, while the rest of the boys waited in the car. As we’d expected, a social worker pounced on us. We answered her questions openly, and after some hurried cell phone conversations she all but bribed me to take Dony’s cousin into my custody at Casa San Dimas while he recovered. I agreed, and we were ushered back to see Adan, my new temporary foster son.
Dony entered the room first, anxiously greeting his cousin and explaining the situation in his rapid Honduran accent. I shyly studied Adan from behind Dony’s back. He was a handsome young man, clearly in pain and clearly embarrassed to be seen in such a weakened position. What caught my attention, however, were his feet. They were sticking out from under his blanket, caked with his own dried blood. I couldn’t stop staring. I knew enough of the usual story to know where those feet had been: jumping on and off of trains, crossing miles of desert for days, running from police, gangsters, bandits, border control, and coyotes. I wanted to wash his feet. I needed to wash his feet. But could I really cross that social barrier, pick up a damp paper towel, and literally scrub the feet of a stranger?
Adan made it easier for me. Shifting uncomfortably, he muttered, “My feet feel terrible.” I glanced quickly at him, and my breath caught in my throat as I saw the face of Jesus looking back at me. I hesitantly asked him, “Adan, may I wash your feet?” His eyes widened as he smiled and nodded slightly. I picked up a damp paper towel and, as gently as possible, began to wash the blood off of Jesus’ feet.
It’s not often that I get the opportunity to live out a Bible story. I thought a lot about humility as I scrubbed the blood from between Adan’s toes. I wondered what Jesus thought as a certain woman slobbered all over His feet, so happy to serve her Savior. I wondered if Jesus thought of that woman as He later washed the feet of His disciples, telling them to go and do likewise. I wondered what Adan thought as he watched a strange white girl frown with concentration as she wiped a flimsy paper towel over his ankles.
I knew what I thought: I was happy to be serving my Savior, too. It’s good for my soul to be able to live Jesus’ teachings literally sometimes.
Adan is now sitting upstairs as I write this; in fact, I’m about due to go help him wash his hair. I mean, I know Jesus told Peter that once the feet are clean, everything else is clean also, but there are moments in dealing with teenage boys when hygiene trumps literalism. I think Jesus will understand.
- Nettie Spitz, San Francisco, Communidad San Dimas, 2010