Great ideas...

Great ideas...

I had a fantastic idea for a post.  It was so good, I stopped getting ready to make the carrot salad for the cluster picnic tonight.  I stopped cleaning and thinking of getting the clothes off the clothesline…and then I couldn’t remember what I wanted to write about.

But, NOW I REMEMBER!  The simple act of sitting here and writing about nothing made me remember.

I read a great blog post here yesterday.  I love this blog for many reasons, and this particular post hit on a personal connection in many ways.

Chris and I were lucky enough to travel to Guinea, West Africa many years ago.  We went with his parents to visit his youngest brother, Tony.  Tony was in the Peace Corp, living in a village outside of Kankan, and he lived in a mud hut.  Buds and I slept in the mud hut with Tony.  The parental units slept in another mud hut across the compound, the owners of which were away on a visit to some of their family.  The latrine was a tiny little mud hut out back, with a hole in the ground.  At least once during the several days we stayed there, Tony’s next door neighbor, who cooked and took care of him, brought us a couple buckets of hot water.  Buds and I shared one to bathe in out in the back yard.

That bucket of hot water was amazing.

And then, when we returned to Kankan, to stay in the Peace Corp respite house there, we had a shower.  The electricity was sketchy, so no hot water, and you used a candle to shower by, but I can still remember that feeling of luxury to have water falling from the sky(ceiling) onto my head.  That lovely little shower influenced us later when we built our dream home in Iowa–that is how amazing that shower felt.

(In addition to showing my two favorite boys on the planet, please note the shower with candle shelves in the background.  This was Kankan inspired.)

(By baby #3, the shelves had become catchalls for more than candles, but Buds is still just as cute in the shower holding his baby.)

To this day, candlelight showers are one of my very favorite things, because of that feeling in Kankan.  That feeling of knowing how just a little bit extra can make an amazing difference.

The bucket of hot water was a blessing.  The cold shower by candlelight–heaven.

Now, the point of this post:  How do you help children understand that feeling, that opportunity, that blessing of the universe?  How do we help our children understand that one toy is great, 100 toys–not 100 times better?  Enough money to care for our needs, we are very thankful for.  Enough money to waste it on eating out every day?  Not a blessing.

When I was growing up, my mom would sometimes use her left hand to do everyday tasks.  She’s right-handed, and she said it was just a way to prepare if she would ever have to use her left hand for everything.  I thought that was a clever idea, so I took it to the next level, which was crawling around the house, pulling myself by my arms.  Just in case I ever lost the use of my legs.  Not sure how much I learned, but the spirit of the experiment stayed with me.

Is there a way to instill appreciation for that which we have, without also instilling guilt?  Isn’t it true that something must be lost in order to know how much it will be missed?

Even before I read the blog post about living on lake water at the vacation house in Maine, I’d been thinking about having the children take bucket showers.  We each get a bucket of water, you can bathe however you choose, but that’s all the water you get.  Would that work?  Would that help?  Would that be worth it?

I should be clear–I wasn’t always happy on the West African adventure.  Buds might even suggest there were even times I was downright unpleasant.  (A particular episode where I wanted a drink as we drove across the country on an 18 hour car ride, and we had no money, so no drink for Jennie, comes to mind.)  But, and this is a huge but–I would not trade that trip for a $100,000.  It impacted our life in ways we could never have expected.  And that is what I want for our children.  That view of the world that expands your concept of right and fair and necessary–forever.

Because “A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimension.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.