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On Scrubbing Toilets

By Justine Dorton

So have you ever wanted ”“ I mean really, really, wanted ”“ to go scrub someone else’s toilets? Has it ever been the purest desire of your heart to do someone else’s dishes?


I suppose there are some of you out there that are WAY better than me, and will always answer yes to those questions. I, however, am mostly a loser. When I think about serving others, sometimes I just cringe all up inside.

I am sooo busy! I’m a lousy cook! I don’t even have clean dishes at my house!

I don’t always feel that way ”“ you know how it is. Sometimes I really get excited about making someone dinner. But, sadly enough, sometimes I just don’t want to. The truth of it is, though, I do it anyway. And although I wouldn’t call it grudgingly, I know it definitely isn’t always with the “willing spirit” I should have.

There are a couple of articles in our current issue of Segullah that talk about serving with that willing spirit. Courtney Kendrick’s article, For the Welfare of your Soul, was one such of those articles.

Let’s talk about this.

How do we develop a better sense of willingness, for lack of a better word, to serve those around us?

And (more importantly, in my mind), how do we find ways to meet people’s needs? I just don’t believe that a hot meal or clean toilet can be a salve for all wounds. The kind of serving I would much rather do is the kind of helping hand that meets someone’s needs on a whole-person kind of scale. Maybe this is a naïve, I-can-save-the-world, kind of mentality, but I would rather meet needs at a different level. Isn’t there a way?

And lastly, the blessings the Lord gives us, just like in Courtney’s writing, come even when we aren’t fully prepared to receive them. How do we find the Lord’s blessings through our own serving, even when given in haste or uncertainty?

About Justine Dorton

Justine is a mother to five children, and has a husband lodged somewhere (probably in the den). She is not very fond of speaking of herself in third person.

5 thoughts on “On Scrubbing Toilets”

  1. This issue is complicated by the presence of moochers in our community. We begin serving with idealistic thoughts–"anything I can do, anything at all"–and discover that some people are an abyss of need. Then we set boundaries so as not to get completely drained. Then we feel guilty about setting the boundaries. Then we serve to exhaustion and get resentful. Then we set boundaries again.

    I speak from a couple of different experiences, but I won't go into specifics. We ask the question "what would the Savior do?". Sometimes the answer is, the Savior would clean the toilet. Sometimes the answer is, the Savior would teach the person to clean the toilet themselves. Sometimes the answer is, the Savior would help motivate the person's video-game-addicted teenager to get off their hiney and clean the toilet. Serving is a lot more complicated than just mustering the desire to clean toilet for people. We need to find a way to serve smart, so that we are either truly helping people in a bind, or empowering potential moochers to help themselves. Otherwise we get tired, and people do not develop the self-reliance they need.

    When you figure it out, let me know :-).

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  2. One thing makes this issue hard is the the large number of voices we can easily find ourselves listening to. What will the neighbor think? The RS President? What will the person we are serving think? What will our families say if we inconvenience them in seeking to serve someone else? I find that I can more easily work through my own feelings if I tune out all the other voices and listen to what the Spirit is directing me to do. It's trying to please everyone else that makes me feel overwhelmed.

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  3. At the moment, I would love nothing more than for somebody to come and scrub my toilets. I am 13 weeks pregnant, and I am on partial bed rest. Hence, my toilets have not really been cleaned for quite some time. My neighbor (not LDS) dropped a lasagna by tonight, and I almost wept with gratitude. Years ago, when I was VERY pregnant and we were moving, my friend came over and scrubbed my toilets as we packed our van. Again, I could have wept with gratitude. Of course, hormones always make me weepy, so maybe the crying isn't the best gauge of of things.

    But my point is that sometimes yes, the simplest of things are so appreciated, especially when one can't do those things for oneself. That said, I don't think that a meal can heal all things, especially if, say, the person you are serving is recovering from chemo therapy treatments and is nauseous every day. Best to go with the toilets on that one.

    I've also been well served by a phone call placed by a particularly in-tune visiting teacher, or a cute basket sent by a loving relative, just to say "I'm sorry, I love you" when something bad happened to our family. The contents of the basket were completely irrelevant, it was just the idea that she was trying to come up with a way to comfort me. And she suceeded, just by her gesture. This same relative also came over the help me with my laundry, and we ended up just chatting while I did my own laundry. It's not the generous donation of Tide that I remember or appreciated, it was the conversation and the reaching out again at a particularly difficult time.

    I try to remember these kinds of gestures when I think of serving others, and I try to offer them in love, or just in the spirit of helping somebody when she is personally maxed out, which happens to us all. Rarely a sincere gesture of love goes unappreciated, regardless of what that gesture is. But I will say that knowing that the service came from love, and not just from a clipboard passed around Relief Society, is what makes it that much nicer.

    And as to your original question, as to how we can develop a sense of willingness to do these things? Well, just put yourself in that person's shoes, and try and figure out what you would like in that situation. That way, you really are trying to meet a need rather than just a check mark on the service meter.

    Sorry, long answer. One has a lot of time to spend on the computer when she is on bedrest!

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  4. There is so much need in the world, it can crush you just thinking about it. When I'm in the right frame of mind, having the chance to do _something_, even something gross, can be a relief. But much of the time I've got so much need in my own house, I find it hard to focus on the needs in others'. When I do manage to make that space within myself, it always feels good. Those memories motivate me to keep trying.

    I do think, though, that a big part of purifying our desires and intentions is to do a lot of service without the "right" feelings. If we all waited to serve until we were feeling true charity, nothing would get done.

    Maybe we should all clean each others' toilets. The bathrooms would all smell great and we'd all feel virtuous.

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  5. I was a maid in a hotel and I've scrubbed a lot of bad stuff. I actually don't mind cleaning the toilet. I can use rubber gloves and lots of clorox and leave it all shiny and clean and scrub my gloves and my hands and feel pretty good about a job well done.

    A lot easier than other things I've done. Like forgive.

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