“While it may seem small, the ripple effect of small things is extraordinary.”
~ Matt Bevin
It’s not what you think. I’m not a financial wizard with a hot stock tip ready to reveal a quick way to get an 8,000% return on your money. Nope. My story has more to do with a little silver coin and the pop tab from a can of Sprite and the efficient way a small oversite can create a big problem.
For 12 days, I had 17 people living in my house. TWELVE DAYS. That’s seventeen mouths to feed. And beds to accommodate 17 bodies. And the sheets, pajamas, beach towels, bath towels and sandy shorts that are worn by 17 people and need to be washed. And more importantly, for this story, the sheets, pajamas, beach towels, bath towels and sandy shorts that need to be dried, once they’ve been washed.
My family began to arrive just before Christmas and on day two, a load of laundry was tossed into the washing machine and subsequently loaded into the dryer. My dryer hummed a rhythmic tune for the first 30 minutes or so before letting out a loud wail of protest. It screamed intermittently through a couple of loads of laundry and when I brought this to the attention of my husband he hovered near the dryer, with his ear beside the drum and said, “I know what’s wrong.”
A little background story. My husband has been in the dry cleaning and laundry business for 39 years. He has fixed more washing machines and dryers than the Maytag Repairman, so when he says he knows what’s wrong, I listen.
Well, don’t keep me in suspense! “What’s wrong with the dryer?” I ask. “Why is it squealing and crying? We’ve only just begun our laundry odyssey of the Holiday Season!”
“There’s something caught in the drum,” he announced. And then he walked away.
Sure enough, the next time I opened the dryer, out fell the pop-off tab from a can of Sprite that our grandson had pilfered at lunch. And behind it, a dime dropped to the floor. I quickly gathered up the contraband before drying the next load of laundry and once again my dryer hummed. My husband is a genius! I even told him so when I called him at work. “You’re a genius!” I said. “There was a dime and a pop-top in the dryer. How did you know?”
We got through the next couple of days without a hitch in the laundry. The machines ran non-stop. Clean water flowed into the washer; dirty water drained out. The dryer continued to do its job too although the humming sound began to take on a gravelly baritone quality and the drying time got a bit sluggish. Before long the squealing and crying started up again, but this time the dryer and I were both doing it. And then it stopped completely. The dryer that is. It stubbornly refused to toss and heat. The lights came on but it would not budge. We were dryerless. All seventeen of us.
That night my husband tore the dryer apart. He found the problem. It was a clip and a wheel and Amazon promised to deliver them both to my doorstep in 36 hours for less than $10. Once the parts arrived and the dryer was repaired it sang happily for a couple of days, or 100 pounds of laundry, until the last of our guests departed. On that day, I gathered the soiled bedding and towels and heaved them onto the floor of a bedroom. The pile grew to a heap so lofty and rank I half-expected the washer and dryer to disconnect themselves from the wall and run in fear. Instead, the washing machine obediently sloshed and spun. And the dryer quit on the first load. More squealing and crying, but this time it was only me. Back to Amazon for another clip and a new wheel and this time we added the belt. Two days later, wearing new accessories, the dryer was back in business. It was a Sunday and I went to work while my husband promised to tackle Mount Stinky Sheets. When I returned a few hours later he was folding towels with an air of self-satisfaction. “Works like a champ!” he boasted, praising the dryer.
Except when I went to put all the white sheets and white pillow cases back on the beds and noticed brown smears on nearly every piece. A Google search of dark smudges on clean laundry revealed the culprit. A loose or ill-fitting felt seal on the dryer drum. This was not an easy fix and it was going to bust the repair budget. Instead I made an executive decision. I bought a new dryer.
Now I’m thinking about my dryer in terms of yoga practice. Or more specifically the intimate relationship we can develop with our bodies through the practice of yoga. When we are in tune to the soft voice of our body; when it protests quietly in a stretch, or the muscles begin to quiver in a hold, we are wise to honor those subtle cues and refrain from pushing forward. I often tell my students that if they struggle to breathe in a full and rhythmic fashion, they’re probably pushing too hard. When we allow our attention to drift from what we’re feeling into what we’re thinking, we miss the dialogue with our physical being and give importance to the chatter in our head. Mind chatter is seldom truthful, but body sensation is straightforward when relaying a message, as long as we’re listening.
We are wise to take a moment before we speak, before we respond, or before we act, to notice what extra baggage we are carrying. To breathe into our bodies and be aware of anything that will obstruct the flow of energy from head to foot and back again. Is there anything we can empty from the pockets of our subconscious before we do harm to our body, our relationships, or others?
If a small coin, forgotten in the folds of a pair shorts, can stop a major appliance, what harm might a missed cue from your body set in motion? Could words, unleashed without filter, alter a relationship? Can a single ember become a deadly and devastating fire, spreading for hundreds of miles? Could a single act of kindness, however small or insignificant it might feel when shared, be the impetus for greater good on a much broader scale? Yes, yes, and yes. And I have a new dryer to prove it.