Living on your own can be rough. I learned this the hard way when I first moved into the apartment where I live now. Fresh out of a relationship, I had my own place for the first time, without any roommates or boyfriends. On one hand, it was liberating. On the other hand, it was a ton of work.
The difference between living by yourself and living with other people is that if you leave the dishes in the sink overnight, they’re still waiting for you when you wake up in the morning. There’s no one to blame for not taking out the garbage, and if you forget to go grocery shopping that’s just too bad- because there’s no one else to mooch off of, or someone to split a pizza with.
The stress of having to juggle all of these different tasks alone, combined with having to work a few part-time jobs to make ends meet, really started to get to me around Christmas time, when I somehow got roped into hosting some family for the holiday.
Ok, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that was happy to take on this task. I guess in some ways I felt like hosting during the holidays would prove to everyone and myself that I was holding it together. Yeah, right.
Cut to late in the evening, the night before Christmas: the place was a mess, the presents weren’t wrapped, and I was elbow-deep in some last-minute baking when I realized that I my load of laundry had been sitting in the dryer pretty much the whole day. It had been another nasty surprise in a series of unexpected tasks that had been popping up the whole day; having clean sheets was the last thing on my mind. But my morning had got off to a miserable start when my dog decided to regurgitate the entire contents of her stomach on my bed, and everything had gone downhill from there.
Breathless and covered in flour, I ran downstairs to the laundry room hoping that no one had left an angry message for hogging the machines, or worse, that someone hadn’t thrown my clean things onto the floor in a fit of irritation.
But when I arrived there were my sheets, folded neatly and waiting quietly for me on the counter. The sight of it made me burst into tears.
I asked virtually everyone I knew around the building if they had folded my laundry, or even if they knew who had done it. No one claimed to be my laundry fairy, and no one had seen anyone come in or out of the laundry room that afternoon or evening.
Obviously my benefactor wanted to remain mysterious, so I did the only thing I could do, in true B fashion: I left a colorful, homemade thank-you note, letting whoever it was know how much that small gesture had meant to me.
I’ve still never figured out who that person was, and perhaps I never will. My neighbors have probably forgotten all about it but every year, around this time of year, I think about that random act of kindness that saved my sanity. It reminds me that there is goodness around, even when all else seems to be dark. It reminds me that people are capable of looking out for each other, without feeling the need to be acknowledged or owed. It reminds me that kindness exists for kindness’ sake, and that one random act has a way of growing and expanding until its effect becomes more meaningful that the deed itself.
I think about my laundry fairy when I smile at a stranger on the street. I am reminded of him or her when I see someone helping a neighbor dig their car out of the snow. All the moments where I don’t have the right change, when someone lets me cut in line, or stops me in the supermarket to compliment me on my outfit; these are the times when I think of the laundry fairy and the kindness that she spread, and the kindness that was spread in turn because of her actions.
Hopefully one day you’ll get an opportunity to encounter your very own laundry fairy, or to be someone else’s laundry fairy in turn. I think no matter what faith we believe in, or what holiday we celebrate, the one thing we have in common is the ability- and the responsibility- to show kindness and compassion towards our fellow human beings, not just during this season, but all the year throughout.
After all, that’s what being a laundry fairy is really about.