An Ancient Ordinary Thing

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, do everything in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God through him. – Colossians 3:16-17, excerpted (NRSV)

In a recent article, science writer Ferris Jabr describes the molecular properties of soap that make it one of our most effective defenses against invisible pathogens. Just a single drop of soap in water, he writes, is enough to disrupt and kill all manner of nasty bugs, including this scary new one.

No one knows who first discovered soap, or when. But whenever it was, it completely altered human history. In an age of robotic surgery and gene therapy, the most wondrous of wonder drugs turns out to be an ancient ordinary thing.

The things that protect and heal us are not always new, technologically exotic, costly, or rare. Sometimes what makes us whole are the same old things our grandmothers recommended, the remedies our ancestors believed in, the ancient ordinary things that have helped us for a long, long time.

Like a Bible verse, a slow reciting of the Lord’s own prayer, old hymns you sing by heart.

Like saying grace at meals, and “Now I lay me down to sleep” when sleep is nigh.

Like a forgiving word, a graceful thought, a covered dish set down outside a needy neighbor’s door.

Like patience in hard times and thankfulness at all times.

Like calling on Jesus, who is with us always, even as he said.

Praise to you, O God, for soap, and for every ancient ordinary thing that soothes, heals, and strengthens us in good times and in bad.

About the Author
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.