Monday, June 28, 2010

The "Tired" Vacuum Cleaner

The past few days it has been late spring cleaning time at the Carrington-Smiths. With two very busy months behind, one kid ready to travel and two more eager to start their summer fun, April cleaning has had no choice but become June cleaning.

My daughter, typically unwilling to attend chores she could help with but hell-bent on mastering tasks out of her league, begged for a chance at proving her domestic skills. After careful pondering and a lot of negotiations – to include a small bonus attached to her weekly allowance – she settled on vacuuming the stairs with a small Dirt Devil.

She was on a mission. Armed with the small vacuum, she walked resolutely toward the first staircase, ready to suck the life out of every dust particle in her path. Her enthusiasm lasted about five minutes until she reached the fifth step; after that, she came down with a defeated look, informing me that the vacuum cleaner was ‘tired.’

Having seen many strange things in my day, but never having run into a tired vacuum cleaner, I set out to diagnose the sudden illness. Easier than assessing a childhood disease, it didn’t take long to determine that the refusal of the vacuum to cooperate in our cleaning effort was due to a dirty filter. Seeing that Morgan’s face still appeared a bit cloudy after my prompt intervention, I asked her what was wrong, so she took me by the hand and showed me a small trail of small clumps of dust and tiny particles of unidentified objects that came pouring down when she turned the vacuum cleaner upside down on her way to get help. “It spilled back out, Mom,” she said, “I vacuumed it up but it wouldn’t stay in.” Not wanting her to feel disappointed, I used the now clean vacuum cleaner to suck up the small pile; then, holding the little gadget up to avoid another spill, I went to empty into the trash.

A small, mindless chore; yet, it reminded me of how ‘garbage’ from the past can clog our inner filters to the point that we are not even able to pick up current debris, thus causing us to fail in the goals we presently have in mind. Surely, cleansing our mental filters is more challenging than cleaning dust out of a small Dirt Devil, but allowing ‘big clumps’ of past issues pile up is a choice we make, and one we can always change. Keeping the “old dust” in doesn’t necessarily translate into getting rid of it – it merely means that we have moved it from one place and stored it into another. We might never end up with a completely clean, factory-pristine filter, but we will at least know we have room to do away with the debris littering our present path.