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Kittredge: The Prayer Rug

02/28/12 5:55PM By Susan Cooke Kittredge
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(Host) Ash Wednesday , the beginning of Lent, was last week. It was also the day that minister and commentator Susan Cooke Kittredge had some things put in perspective for her - by a domestic accident that will sound familiar to many of us.

(Kittredge) When my husband and I were in our thirties, raising five children and a variety of animals large and small, the furnishings in our house were functional and cheap. We flirted with the idea of nice things, but since we could neither afford them nor imagine protecting them from magic markers, spilled spaghetti or the trackings of the barn, we settled for function over fancy. After the children grew up, we focused more on our careers, but when our parents died, suddenly we found we had inherited some possessions that we really liked. They had value not because they were worth money, but rather because they had history and meaning and reminded us of those we had loved and lost.

Last week I was away when our black Labrador, Nell, made her way into a closet in the basement, found a gift box of See's chocolates and ate the whole thing, cardboard, crinkle cups and all. She then promptly threw up on the living room rug - the rug that was a gift from my mother, the same rug that, I am somewhat ashamed to say, is my favorite possession. The dog was apparently fine - that Nell threw up was fortunate because chocolate can be lethal to dogs - but the rug was not.

Hearing about the accident late that night, I didn't sleep much, just tossed and turned and wished I were home so I could what? Worry the rug clean?

Upon my return, I discovered that the stain was actually a lot bigger and worse than I had imagined-basically the size of a wheelbarrow. Wired with sleeplessness, I was agitated. But what really disturbed me was that I was so disturbed. It's a thing, I told myself, a foolish material possession.

That this happened on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent was not lost on me. I have always seen Lent as a kind of spring training for Christians, a spiritual tune up in preparation for the glory of Easter and the rest of the year. Many of us like to take a break from our normal routines and engage in some thoughtful reflection at some point during the year; whether at a retreat or vacation or in the woods; many Christians do this during Lent.

So this year, Lent began for me not with a smudge of ash on my forehead, but with a mess of chocolate on my rug, humbling me,

reminding me that there are people across the world with nothing, suffering unimaginable travesties and hardships. And I'm grateful for the spiritual wake up since I know that whenever I see that blotch of brown on what I now think of as my prayer rug, I will see a clear caution against the attachment to things over people. And even over beautiful, loving, clever if sometimes, mischievous dogs.

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