Dignity and Downton Abbey Dignity and Downton Abbey

I search the pantry, looking for the perfect snack.  The babies are in bed, so I take my time.  What I really want is a Canadian maple cookie, imported personally by my husband back from his stay in Ontario.  I stare at the orange Mr. Maple box…no, it’s probably sinful at this point to have any more sugar. An image of the Sacred Heart comes to mind, as well as a story I had read a month or two ago about some babies after birth needing an insulin drip after experiencing sugar withdrawal symptoms, and I close the door.   My husband prepares a cheese platter and finds a bottle of wine.

Satisfied with our treats, we race to the couch, my husband’s laptop open in front of us.  He right-clicks and the beautifully dramatic and intense music starts.  A gorgeous estate appears on screen, and it begins—Downton Abbey.

I watch as the beautifully dressed, perfectly-coifed head family tends to their daily business.  I get distracted trying to decide what the ladies’ dresses are made of.  I envy the gorgeous fabric and tailoring and matching jewels and gloves and hats, glancing down at my own now mannish-looking “outfit” of jeans and maxed-out maternity top.  Too depressing to behold, my eyes return to the screen and I wonder how they get their hair to curl and stay up like that.

I smile as the mother refers to her husband as “his lordship”, who is every bit a lord, inside and out.  Gallant and handsome, virtuous and principled, he runs the estate with great care, aware that his inheritance is the fruit of the labor of generations ahead of him, determined to  preserve this great gift to the best of his ability.

And then the camera cuts to the also beautifully-dressed staff moving quickly about the house, deftly completing their chores with equal care and concern.  I fantasize about them coming to my house, fluffing the pillows, making the beds with clean linens, creasing the sheets, leaving a jar of biscuits next to our beds.  Mr. Carson, the head of staff, doles out reminders to the staff that they and their work must always reflect the dignity of the family of whom they serve.  I am immediately struck by both the truth of his words, how we as Christians would do well to remember the same as we daily strive to serve our Lordship, and with what a foreign ring they resonate in my modern ears.

All verbal exchanges—pleasant or not-- in the house between the family, the servants, or between the two are marked with extraordinary politeness and decorum and the whole scene unfolds with great dignity.

At the end of the episode, my husband closes his laptop, if a little reluctantly and we head upstairs to bed.  I kick my daughter’s pink nightie to the side of the hallway with my toe, and I watch as my lordship brushes his teeth.  My life feels so casual compared to what we’ve been watching the past forty-five minutes.  I wonder if a wait staff, gorgeous dresses, and a clearer cultural code of decorum would help.  Maybe, I think.  But I suppose I already have a Lord, and those extra things simply point to the reality that I already ought to know—that our serving Him, Infinite Love, is the most dignified work there is.  I simply need faith to remember that.  Not maids...but faith and maids would be awesome.

Copyright 2012 Meg Matenaer