The story of the leader washing the feet of the disciples is a transparent image of servant leadership. The body and the tenderness of human touch are also at the heart of the ritual. People in L’Arche have discovered that the Washing of the Feet is a sacred rite that can include people from many spiritual traditions, including people of no particular religious affiliation. Some people choose to have their hands washed instead of their feet. It’s also perfectly fine to participate by simply being present in one’s circle. This reflection is by Ashley being invited into this tradition by her house mate John.
“It was my very first footwashing service at L’Arche and I found myself quite nervous. John, who had traditionally always partnered with Alan Dobb for the footwashing service had asked me if he could wash my feet. I was surprised and honored that he would ask me! Surely there was someone more special or closer to him that he would ask, why me? At the service I remember feeling anxious. After all, feet are dirty, and a lowly part of my body, and I did not feel all that excited about touching someone else’s feet or them touching mine.
John and I were sitting a chair or two away from each other and I thought he would forget about his previous question. As it came time for the footwashing to begin, there was a quiet sacred hush. Socks and shoes were removed as each person approached another and carefully poured water from the pitcher onto the feet of their neighbor then drying them with a white towel. It was my turn to have my feet washed, and though I ended up being partnered with someone else, John insisted on washing my feet. I had never seen anyone so eager and willing to wash my feet! He knelt down in front of me and gently took my foot, pouring water over it. He actually took my whole foot into both hands and made sure water had evenly covered all of it, and it was thoroughly clean. Afterwards, he tenderly patted it dry and placed his hand upon my head, and gave me a blessing. No words were exchanged during this time, but John’s small action touched a deep place within me. I felt so loved, accepted, and special. I couldn’t help but well up with tears as John and I looked into each other’s eyes. I was blessed and touched by this simple and humble act of kindness.”
~ Ashley Bae
“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ~ Steve Maraboli