Friday, January 6, 2012

Cloth Napkins

Pride has been present behind every partition of the human heart since the Garden of Eden, so I do not pretend any historical era has been exempt from it. But I wonder if disposable paper napkins in recent years have perhaps helped fool us into believing we’re cleaner than we are.

I’ve used paper napkins as long as I remember. If I’m feeling particularly frugal, I might use a paper napkin two or three times before tossing it, but mostly I’ve been a one-napkin kind of gal. Wipe the mouth with it, wad it up, and wastebasket, here it comes. I hardly ever even look at the napkin I’ve just used. 

My niece and her husband, returning from a trip around the world with a resolve to be kinder to the planet by using cloth napkins, raised my consciousness about filling landfills with unnecessary napkins. In France this fall, my French friend chided me for using disposable hand wipes instead of antibacterial gel, and a Paris cafĂ©’s napkins were imprinted with an urgent reminder that fewer napkins contributes to a healthier planet. These influences convicted me to use the cloth napkins I have, not just for company, but for everyday meals.

This seems simple enough. But it does involve an adjustment. Cloth napkins must be laundered. My grandma, born in the 1890s, told me she thought the greatest invention of all time was not cars, not computers, but paper towels. Paper napkins offer the same time savings. Going back to cloth napkins is less convenient—and not just because you have to wash them.

Washing cloth napkins forces me to see my messes. What are all these large, amorphous, yellow blobs? Did any of my yellow food even end up in my stomach? Good grief, it’s all over both sides of the napkin. And the small bright red dots, what are they? I’d like to believe this was my husband’s napkin, but nope, it’s mine.

I lay the napkin flat on top of the washing machine. … My sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned ... (Psalm 51:3,4) I brush brown crumbs from a sticky translucent spot. … A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17) After squirting stain remover on all the spots, I toss the napkin in the washer to be renewed and reused. Create in me a pure heart, O God … (Psalm 51:10) This woman of unclean lips—in more ways than one—is ready for a fresh start, God’s new mercies to help me speak lovingly to and about others. Oh, and I might try to be a neater eater, too.

1 comment:

tandemingtroll said...

Love the post! We switched to cloth napkins a few years ago. We re-use them, sometimes for several days. I bought dark napkins mainly because they don't show the stains as much. They still get pretty yucky and I think they might help spreading germs because the kids sit in different places at different times of the day :-$ and we do NOT have their names on them.

I love the reference to Isaiah.