Once, I had a dream house. Not that I lived in, but that lived in my mind. My husband and I would lie in bed and dream of stone floors and an unnecessary number of fish (fish ponds, fish tanks–we like fish). Now, of course, I think of heads bumped on stone floors and children falling in fish ponds. I’m not as fun as I used to be.
Matthew 8:19-20 (KJV)
And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
Right now, my children and I live in a single wide trailer (my third, but the first one I’ve owned). There is new laminate in the living room and bedrooms and ripped linoleum in the kitchen and bath. No fish. But we do have a lake across the highway where we go and we try to catch fish. That is, when it’s not October through May.
I’ve recently learned that this town’s founding commodity was ice. That’s right, ice. I knew it was cold here. And several times this winter, despite all precautions to the contrary, that cold has taken it out on my trailer’s pipes. So, several times this winter, we’ve been without water for a day or five.
There are primarily two perspectives one can choose when life gets just a teensy bit hard. The one you live by will dictate the entire course of your life–your decisions, your attitude, even your dreams. The one you follow will define the level of difficulty in your life; because life can get a little hard, or it can be unbearable.
No water at my house meant I grabbed my five gallon buckets and carried them to “the well” of Mom and Dad’s bathtub (I have the best neighbors in the world). Trip after trip after trip, because force flushing the toilet is easier than bundling kids just to send them screaming across the street. And screaming is definitely a given. Do I have the only children who wait til peeing has become an emergency before they actually consider finding a bathroom?
In the temporary absence of luxury, there are two directions in which one can look. Choose wisely. Gratitude isn’t something one feigns to be holy. I’m often asked about the secret to my joy, and though I sometimes forget it, I found it again in fetching water. You see, on the short walk with my buckets, I wasn’t thinking of my dream home. I wasn’t thinking of my last home or of a Pinterest home. And I didn’t think of your home, either. But each time I sloshed buckets of clean water back to my house, my heart ached in a way I could scarcely explain. Every time, emotion overwhelmed me to the point of tiny tears.
I haven’t been out of the country since I was a teenager. Still, I know what’s there (as much as one can know without experiencing). I know what’s there in our own country, too. I asked Tiff if I could post some of the photos from her trip to Africa, because when I’m blessed enough to be hauling disease-free water across a short driveway to my house, I’m not thinking of you. I’m thinking of them. And when I think of them, I’m forced to that hidden place deep within me where joy and pain collide in a moment of indescribable emotion. The place where tears aren’t happy or sad but are the prayers the angels collect in jars, that’s where I go when I think of them.
The picture above is of a woman buying water in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. According to Tiff, the water is trucked in and sold by the slumlords for about a quarter for a jug. A quarter a jug sounds reasonable until you realize that the rent on their shacks is about six dollars a month, and many people cannot even afford that. But I suppose the trucked in water is worth a quarter. According to Tiff’s missionary source, “The water is very good now. Not many people get Typhoid from the water anymore.”
There is no running water in the Kibera slum. There is no sewer system. Yet, people live here. People live here. Mothers and children, they live–here. Channels in the streets collect all the human waste, garbage, and rain water. Those that cannot afford to pay a quarter for a jug of water will occasionally drink this sludge out of sheer desperation.
Those who have no water play as if they do.
There are many paths to happiness, I suppose, but none so sure as perspective. Someone will always have better or more. You can think of your friends and your neighbors. You can elevate your hardships and manufacture suffering. Or, you can think of them. And you can cry, and you can pray, and you can help, and you can live.