He's been asking for a "fresh cloth" a lot, so I've been indulging that request more often since he's sick.
When Jonathan was a baby he did an excessive amount of spitting up, and as a toddler he drooled like crazy, so for a long time we needed to have a steady supply of those flannel receiving blankets on hand just to keep up. As time passed, he discovered that these blankets weren't just good spew-wipers; they were also nice and soft to hold -- and since he never used a soother or claimed a favourite stuffed animal, he adopted his "cloths" as his comfort toys.
Fast-forward to the present; he is now eleven, and still takes a new, clean "cloth" to bed every night. Except they are no longer 18-inch-square flannel blankets; our supply has dwindled to about seven scraps of flannel (and I use the word flannel loosely, since there's no "nap" on the fabric anymore). These cloths aren't even good enough to clean up spills with, they're so thin and raggedy. And small: this one is probably only about 7 x 5 inches.
But replacing them with newly cut squares of fresh flannel is a no-go. Believe me, we've tried, only to have the nice new plushy pieces angrily and tearfully rejected. New is not better: only the old ragged, hole-y cloths will do.
I don't think clinging to old, worn, familiar comforts is unique to Jonathan. How many of us slouch around in ratty pajama pants or outdated sweaters -- things we wouldn't be caught dead in out in public -- just because there's something reassuring and cosy about them? How many of us reach for the same mug and curl up in the same corner of the couch just because it feels right?
But we're sometimes a little ... well, uncomfortable with comfort. Or we think we should be. So often we hear a motivational speaker or a preacher or athlete talk about "getting out of our comfort zone" -- pushing ourselves beyond our limits, taking on a challenge we've never faced before. And that's a good point. Too much comfort can lead to complacency and laziness and can narrow our vision to our own selfish concerns. I definitely have to guard against this because I tend to prefer comfort over challenge.
But when I give Jonathan his third "fresh cloth" of the day just because he asks for it, I can't help but see comfort as a good thing. We need to know there's something there we can reach out for that will give us that sense of peace and all-rightness, that assurance that some things don't change and don't need to change, but can be relied on. Even if they're just little scraps of cloth, they can be an important symbol of the security that we all really need -- a security that, ironically, can be the very source of the courage we need to face challenges when the time comes to do so.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of mercies and God of all comfort."