The Dishwasher

Recently, I was planning a shopping run to several country stores.

I’m always worried that people will… well, talk to me.  When I go shopping in Elkhart County with a list of things to buy, what I really want is to get my items post-haste, and get back home.  I don’t really enjoy having 25 cars ahead of me at the stop light, or seven people ahead of me in line, or three people crowding the dairy cooler at the same time that I’m selecting cheese.  I used to love shopping at 3 am when I worked night shift and had a day off.

But now, I explained to Marnell, I have to get up the courage to go shopping.

There’s daylight, and bustle and people who think they know me or at least someone in my family.

“Now let me see, I think I know you!  Didn’t your mom pass away from cancer?”


“Didn’t your grandma used to drive Amish?”

And now, “Oh yes, you’re the one that just got married, how sweet!”

“What’s wrong with that?” Marnell asked.

I added, “And then they’ll say, ‘Oh, you married Marnell? I know him! He’s really nice! I wonder why he married you?'”

I knew Marnell wouldn’t be able to relate to my discomfort. When he goes shopping, he talks with almost everyone he meets.  He loses track of time.  He makes bored cashiers laugh and leaves people feeling more cheerful than when they came.

A few days later, I encountered an article “Everyone You Meet Will Live Forever: Evangelism in an Age of Unbelief”, written on the desiringgod website by Matt Chandler. (Here it is)

It was about hospitality.  Now, I basically enjoy having company, so I didn’t feel too convicted as I began to read these warm lines:

Now, why would God be so serious about hospitality? Well, because he has been so hospitable to us. Even when we were living as his enemies, he came and saved us. He opened the door and invited us into his presence. We demonstrate that we truly appreciate the divine hospitality we have received as we extend our own hospitality to those around us.

I’m not suggesting that biblical hospitality is the silver bullet for making evangelism work in the twenty-first century (news flash: there’s no silver bullet). But might it not be — in our cynical, polarizing, critical, dumpster-fire culture — that a warm dose of welcoming hospitality will take some folks by surprise and open up the door for opportunities to make disciples of Jesus Christ?

Then, I got to his practical application section entitled Four Ways to Show Hospitality.  (Wouldn’t life be so much more comfortable if preachers and teachers would skip the practical application sections?)

Point Number One:  Welcome everyone you meet.


As if the author read my mind, he added:

I think the best first step is to greet everyone you see. That’s easy to do if you are wired like me — I’m a total extrovert. That’s hard if you’re an introvert, and maybe you’re thinking, “Can we just skip to number two, please?” But often the best actions to take are the hardest to do. Pray for grace, ask for strength, take a risk, and greet people.

Point Number Two: Engage People.

Uh-oh.  For me, not much of an improvement over Point Number One.

Have I mentioned that Marnell “knows a guy” in basically every human sphere?

A few years ago (2015?), I finally called an appliance company about my Craigslist dishwasher.  I told them I wanted my dishwasher evaluated because the dial stuck and it would wash forever.  It also did a bad job of washing dishes.  It left them spotted and crusted with soap.

They told me that there would be a diagnostic fee of $50 per appliance but that if I then fixed the problem, the money would go toward the repair bill.

In all fairness to the guy who came out, it wasn’t really his fault that he looked fresh out of junior high.  He did bring his own door mat to wipe his feet on, which was nice.  He told me that he could take apart the dial on the dishwasher, but the repair and parts would probably cost more than it was worth.  I paid $50 for that thought. He also told me the ice maker could not be fixed, a conclusion to which he seemed to arrived by Googling something on his phone.  I paid $50 for that thought too (as I recall, it’s been awhile).

So I struggled on, and I learned to make sure I didn’t start the dishwasher unless I was going to be home and could move it along manually, and I struggled on.

Then, I got married, and started doing more dishes, and the incompetence of the dishwasher swelled to nearly complete uselessness.

“I know the guy at Northside Appliance,” Marnell said. “I’ll talk to him sometime.”

We were eating a meal one night when Marnell suddenly focused on the dishwasher.

“Take it off of high heat,” he said.

“The guy” at Northside had told him that some of the cheaper Frigidaire models will not meet the high temperature requirement and therefore will run indefinitely.

“Also, he said to use Quantum Finish soap and rinse aid.”

I crossed the kitchen and punched the high heat buttons off, and for good measure put the high heat dry on.  I couldn’t remember looking at those buttons for years and certainly couldn’t have told you they were there. (Apparently the junior high appliance guy couldn’t have either).

I started the dishwasher, and 45 minutes later I realized that it had passed the sticking point.

“It’s working!” I crowed.

Not only was it working, but when I unloaded it the next morning, the dishes were remarkably clean.

When I added the soap and rinse aid he suggested, the dishwasher was transformed.

Engaging someone in conversation did something that $100 could not do.  I wonder how often I’ve missed a blessing because I was too much in a hurry, too intent on my list, too focused on tasks yet to accomplish?

But more important than receiving a blessing, what if God wanted to bless someone else through me, and I was too busy checking things off my list?  What if one of those people who will live forever was disappointed when I snapped my plastic card in and out of the credit card machine and moved on?

Like any habit, I suspect this one will die hard. But I thank God for pointing it out to me, not just as a characteristic of my personality to excuse, but as a weakness to improve with intention.  And have you noticed how God is so faithful at sending tangible reminders to help us learn?

In this case the object lesson is a dishwasher, as good as new.

21 thoughts on “The Dishwasher”

  1. I needed this reminder, that my shopping days aren’t just for finding the end of my list! And I’m delighted for you that your dishwasher works so well now!

    1. Thanks Doris, I am delighted too. And I’m glad inspired you. I think of you as someone who always takes time for people!

  2. I have a hard time knowing what to say to people. Like, how do you engage people in a conversation? Always envious of those who never meet a stranger!

    1. Treva, I sympathize with your question. I’m a grandma now, and it’s so true that learning to relate to people is a life-long process. So keep on trying to learn, and yet be patient with yourself. When I was younger I agonized over not knowing what to say, and feeling convicted like I should be witnessing for Christ. Eventually I made a “bargain” with God that if He gave me the words to say, I would say them. That helped me relax, which is one of the keys I think.
      Another “key” for me has been remembering that the other person is normal, has a home-life, has a background, has a social life, is walking through some kind of valley right now, etc. Thinking about Jesus loving that other person so much He was willing to die for them. Basically I guess it comes down to letting your imagination focus on what might be going on in the other person’s life, rather than imagining what they might be thinking of me.
      Then there’s a list of common questions you get used to using that are great conversation starters. Here are some of mine: random comments about the weather: I like to pick out something different that not every Tom, Dick and Harry would say. Or if there are children in the line in front of me I like to get them to smile, play peekaboo, whatever. Or I will make a comment about how fast the cashier is (if it’s true) or ask them if they have a long time till the end of their shift, or if we’ve been talking about the nice day, will they get off work in time to get out and enjoy the day/weather, etc. It seems like a random comment is often the key that can start a nice mini-conversation off. Then you can relax and know that you’ve “opened your door”, if the other person wants to “come in” or not is up to them… and God.
      Thanks for those neat thoughts on hospitality, Katrina. It was a new twist for me, and I really liked it.

      1. I really appreciate your insight, Christine! I like the idea of relaxing and employing random, comfortable topics of conversation.

  3. I have days where I’m like Marnel, but when it comes to “Elkhart County” runs, I drag my feet like everything. I don’t want to run into my cousins wife’s sister., I’m fine with interacting with strangers and dare I say non-Mennonnites, but when it comes to the people I don’t feel like running into, I can internally be so not in the mood.

  4. Wow! So glad your dishwasher finally works! And thanks for the inspiration again.

  5. Aurelia L Glick

    Oh boy!! I could wish I hadn’t read this. I rarely make the effort to engage anyone when I am out and about and my little world was all nice and secure in that. Now you had to write this!! Blessings to you as you attempt to break out of your normal and I will be pondering doing the same thing.

    1. Yes that’s kind of how I felt about that article I read 🙂 Blessings to you!

  6. Esther Cross

    I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles. I am challenged many times. Thank you for taking the time, when you probably would enjoy playing a game with Markell or something else.

    I have a different question. We purchased several of your books and sent them to Cyprus, where we have 4 grandchildren, daughter and her husband. I told them I would ask you if you wrote these books as experiences you had in those countries. We have several but have not read them either yet.

    Marnell would know us, Leroy and Esther Cross. Leroy was in service with Marnell’s folks!! As the experience Leroy had in service he went to Nursing School and has retired as an RN.
    Thank you for answering the question.

    1. Yes, Esther, the books were personal experiences. Voices of Syria was written about my experiences in Lebanon and Jordan, interviewing Syrian refugees.

  7. Please don’t be too hard on yourself! My husband is also an extrovert and thrives on interacting with everyone. Sometimes I beat myself up that I am not him, and try to force myself to be “him”. While I have found that “people” are usually not as scary as they first appear, and that a friendly smile and an interested question about them breaks down a lot of barriers, I’m still not him. (And I become exhausted trying to be him.) I am trying to recognize that I’m often creating a false image of how I need to interact (patterning myself on my husband), when I am also one of God’s creations with my own gifts and abilities. I do need to love God, and being filled up with this love, I will be able to share it with those around me. But, it will be with my God-given gifts, honoring my creator with what he has given me to share with others. (Just as my husband is sharing his gifts.) You are reaching out, and you are doing it with your gifts. Your gifts also touch so many, and you honor God in sharing them. It looks different from Marnell, but we need all types, right?!?

    1. I’m sure you’re right that each person has their niche for serving God! And I will most likely always be more comfortable writing than talking, even though I do want to improve my interactions with people. Thanks for the great perspective!

  8. Wow, I think we must be related. And my husband always gets to talking with someone, somewhere, somehow. But then I read all the comments and I see that maybe it’s not so much heredity or at least not just that. Aurelia Glick summed it up pretty well.

    1. I also didn’t realize so many people can relate to these scenarios. It might be more commonly a “woman” tendency? But I’m pretty sure there are couples with the reverse situation.

  9. I like to be in the background serving but since I have a “special child” am often in the center of attraction. I too am learning a smile goes a long way and as was mentioned, conversations about children or with them helps break the ice. I remember those days of taking my children shopping and it not being a pleasant experience. So involving children in smiling or small talk shows them and parents you care about them. There are a lot of lonely people out there and God has placed these people in our path. Remembering that makes it a bit easier. Thanks so much for your encouragement and maybe even fixing my dishwasher!

    1. Hey I’m glad you were encouraged and that would be fantastic if your dishwasher gets better too! And I like the practical tip about children, something applicable to just about every trip.

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