Usha and Mercy
Kisumu - Kenya


NO 2 January 2006
Scripture reading: John 13: 2-15


On the evening of the Last Supper, Jesus got up, took off his outer garment and tied a towel round his waist. Then he poured some water into a basin and began washing and drying his disciples’ feet. Feet that were tired and dirty, hard and calloused from long walks. As he took each foot in his hand, he washed it gently and dried it and made that foot and person feel most special. Perhaps it was the first time that foot had ever been touched by another person. Perhaps it was the first time that person had ever experienced such gentleness and care. Every foot must have ached with the wear and tear of long distance walking. Jesus recognized this unspoken ache, and took care of it by washing the tired feet and drying them. Every disciple must have felt a unique sense of specialness and belonging when Jesus washed his feet. After this experience, each one would have been so strengthened that he would have wanted to walk on and on. Later, Jesus said to his disciples, “I have set an example for you so that you will do just what I have done for you.”

What is this example that He set for us? Was it to wash and care for each other’s feet only? If so, we can all do it very easily. The example that Jesus gave us is symbolic………. of setting aside our own needs, our status, our reputations, our wealth, our usual selfish way of living and seeing the hidden aches and pains of those around us and touching them not just with our hands, or our skills or our purses, but also with our hearts.

Often, in leprosy work there is the temptation to feel that in our work we serve others. Professionally we might clean their wounds, prescribe medicine, operate , give them good advice, teach them exercises, take blood………but these are merely jobs which any trained person can do. Jesus tells us not to just attend to our jobs, but to stretch ourselves further and to be like him. To treat every person we meet and touch as special.


For some people, service means providing help to those who need it, or being able to fix a situation that has gone wrong, or looking after the poor, the sick, and the elderly. We rarely think of service as a way of life. In leprosy work especially, service has to be a way of life.

I remember a man called Kaliaperumal, a former leprosy patient, who was a member of staff in Karigiri. His job was to sweep the yards and gardens, empty the dustbins and keep the whole place tidy. It was a boring job, yet, he never grumbled about it. He swept the grounds so hard until there as no dust left, he planted colourful seedlings all over the place, until suddenly one day when they bloomed, we were struck by their beauty. Kaliperumal served his community with all of his heart. He knew all the patients in the beds by name. Often he would cook something for them, buy bananas, or go the market to buy fish for someone who was longing to eat fish. When anyone was discharged, he would carry their luggage to the bus stop and wave to them as if they were a very special friend that he was going to miss terribly. Sometimes he would even baby - sit our children. When my husband was away from home and I could not sleep, he would lie down outside under my window and keep me company. On one of these nights I asked him about the difficulties he faced in his own life. He cried a little as he told me how he was asked to leave his home, and how on many occasions he had felt like taking his life. “ But now, I know that this is what I am here for,” he said, “ To be here and make people who have no one else to make them happy, happy. ” Kaliaperumal was the happiest person I knew.


After washing each disciple’s feet, Jesus very clearly says, “ I have given you an example, so that you might do what I do.” At this point, we need to ask ourselves, “ What is it that Jesus expects me to do like him?” We need to ask this question individually, as an institution, as a community and as a larger organization.

For each of us, the answer would be different as we have different skills and talents and duties to perform. Whatever our situation or however insignificant our jobs may seem, Jesus speaks to each one of us. He knows that we do the same things everyday and that we get bored by it. Because He understands this, He tells us not to do our jobs like a machine, only at a superficial level, but to serve those we meet by caring for that invisible, aching part of the person who comes to us. By making each person we meet feel cared for and special.

How do we do this in our everyday lives? By listening to not just the words a person says to us on the surface, but also to the hidden fears and sadness which are not spoken; by going the extra mile to do something for someone; by assuring them that you will be there for them in their troubles; by bringing strength to those who are weak or depressed. To make our lives one of service, we need to put away our selfishness, ego and greed so that it is no longer ‘I ‘ that matters most, but ‘you.’ Making our lives one of service is the secret to a happy life.


  • How would you feel if Jesus were to take your feet in His hands and wash them gently? You hear Jesus say, “ I have given you an example so that you might do what I do.” How do you respond?
  • What new lessons has this passage taught you?
  • Would your friends or family say that yours was a life of service?


Lord, I wake up every morning
wanting to follow the example you have given us
in serving the sick, the poor, the elderly and needy.
I ask you now to give me the insight
to see another’s invisible aches and pains and needs,
So that like you, I too might forget my status,
my qualifications, my wealth, my way of life
and kneel in humility,
to serve the one standing in front of me
with an open heart.

USHA JESUDASAN - ushajesudasan@gmail.com

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