A Lesson from a Vacuum Cleaner

Rachael Reiton
3 min readOct 6, 2015


I just moved. Like, halfway-across-the-country moved.

There is some serious excitement in a move like that. You really can’t help but feel that Life has just hit a huge fork in the road. That thing that you have been talking about for so long, that process? Well, the baby steps you’ve been taking for months are suddenly not only getting bigger, they are getting faster, and one day you find yourself bombing along, wheels spinning, dust flying, and you realize, “Whoa, Bessie! We ain’t stopping now!!!” and that’s when you grab on for dear Life and hang on for the ride.

That was last month, and now, after several weeks of high stress and “Dear God, will this never end,” I’m starting to settle in. Most of the boxes are unpacked. We’ve figured out where we want almost everything to go. The dog is digging the new backyard. Our shipment of trash compactor bags (!) and a brand new vacuum cleaner have arrived. I’ve even bought a gallon of paint, already, to jazz up one of the bathrooms. Things are starting to calm down.

So, back to that vacuum cleaner. Apparently my husband does his appliance research really well, because it is a powerhouse. And for that I am grateful because the woman who lived in this house before us appears to 1) have had a dog or two and 2) not vacuumed often. Maybe she did; maybe just not very thoroughly.

So today, I’m hunched over the carpeted basement steps, scraping and sucking up the matted dog hair that is filling every crack, corner, and crevice of the stair treads, risers, and trim, sweating and straining and fighting my vacuum hose. As I am having so much fun, I find myself internally bitching about the previous owner. What a slob. I bet she never cleaned. And her gross dog. Nasty hair. Hair everywhere. And I found myself going so far, in my little imaginary world, to start judging her character — based on the dog hair I was madly vacuuming up.

And then my inner voice said: I bet, if you only knew her, you wouldn’t think this way…

If I only knew her. If I only had a relationship with her. If I knew her and not my idea of her.

Relationships are teachers. They show us not the perception of a man but actual parts of his soul. No matter the depth of a relationship, no matter whether it is a good one or a bad one, there is a knowledge that is gained from the interactions we have with a person that builds or destroys that relationship and influences us for the rest of our lives.

I was raised with the belief that homosexuality was a sin. When I left home and moved to Chicago to go to school, my first boss was a manager of a Gap store on Michigan Avenue. He was an awesome guy. Genuine. Fun. A great leader. Gay.

My relationship with Kevin taught me something about being gay that I never would have known had I not had a relationship with him. And our relationship, short as it was, started a slow but steady change in my heart about how I came to view homosexuality. He and I never talked about it. Words were never exchanged on the subject. It was simply our interactions and casual conversations that showed me who he was as a whole. And that my preconceived perceptions about homosexuality were wrong.

If I only knew her… How many people have I judged beyond the point of no return in my life — because of their dog’s hair? Or who their parents were? Or how they were dressed? Or because of how they portrayed themselves in one moment in time? How many more people would I have come to know and love if I had only taken the time to get to know and understand? Let them prove themselves to me?

There is a world full of people out there. Including me. And in this new world of mine, I am a stranger in a strange town. I sound weird. I have a weird dog. I’m a writer, for God’s sake. Like, a jobless writer.

I know what I want: I want people to give me a chance.

If you only knew me…



Rachael Reiton

Author of Marley Eats His Vegetables and Reading Toward Success: Tried-and-True Reading Practices for Raising Successful Kids. Creator of CreatingAFoodie.com