To me, humility is not what we often make of it: the sheepish way of trying to imagine that we are the worst of all and trying to convince others that our artificial ways of behaving show that we are aware of that. Humility is the situation of the earth. The earth is always there, always taken for granted, never remembered, always trodden on by everyone, somewhere we cast and pour out all the refuse, all we don’t need. It’s there, silent and accepting everything and in a miraculous way making out of all the refuse new richness in spite of corruption, transforming corruption itself into a power of life and a new possibility of creativeness, open to the sunshine, open to the rain, ready to receive any seed we sow and capable of bringing thirtyfold, sixtyfold, a hundredfold out of every seed.
-Metropolitan Anthony Bloom
(I stole the quote from Tavi’s Corner, from Met. Anthony’s Beginning to Pray. And I see that the general idea has been shared in slightly different words elsewhere, and credited by Met. Anthony to St. Theophan the Recluse.)
My grandmother had grown up on a farm where she was probably comfortable with animals and “good clean dirt.” But when we knew her she had lived in the city for a long time (not The City of San Francisco, though) and was comfortable with us washing our hands quite frequently, especially if we had handled “dirty money,” i.e., all money. She wore gloves quite a bit, for different purposes. It’s very easy for me to pull up the image of her holding her soft leather driving gloves that she had just removed, which kept the fragrance of her warm and soft hands.
When my sisters and I visited her from our farm in the Central Valley she would take us across The Bay Bridge to The City. We dressed up in our finest and made a day of it, though I have no memory of just what we did there. Today I was made to wonder if she took us to the Saint Francis Hotel for lunch, because she would have liked the fact that they keep their money clean.
As a proper housewife I appreciate the use of soap and water and the impulse to keep things fresh and sanitary for the health of my family. Probably even the saint for whom the hotel is named wouldn’t have turned down a gift of soap. Or money, whether clean or dirty.