I have a friend who is very near to death, and last night I had the honor of sitting at her bedside while her husband caught some needed shut-eye. I watched over her, dispensed her medications, and cleaned up her poop.
Yep…I wiped my friend’s rear end.
Why not? I did it with my children, and it wasn’t pleasant to clean their bottoms just because they were my children, believe me. That was some rank stuff…stinky, sticky, and nasty. But I love my children, and their childhood needs were okay with me, so I did what it took to take care of them no matter what their needs were or how unpleasant those needs were for me to deal with.
I love my friend, too…and her needs are okay with me, no matter what they are. I am, however, really aware that some people are freaked out by the idea of dealing with another person’s waste.
I understand that feeling. I wouldn’t want to do something that private for just anybody, but I would do it for anybody who really needed it.
I guess I’m just weird.
No, seriously, I’m weird, because lately I have been reading a book called The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters by Rose George. ***
We are blessed in this country with things that we take for granted—life saving things that have changed our society, like clean water and waste management/sanitation. So often we forget these two things are tied together and that without them both, our children and our elderly stand to die of simple water-born diseases like cholera and dysentery. Diseases like these are quickly fatal and yet easily cured with oral re-hydration salts. In the past, developed nations like the US have compassionately focused on providing inexpensive packets of oral re-hydration salts to countries without adequate sanitation and clean water. After all, no one should have to die for the want of a small packet of salts that costs mere pennies to provide.
But what is it to save a life, if you do nothing to stop that person from risking their life by taking another drink of water? What is it to save a life, if you leave the person you saved in the same horrific conditions that made them sick in the first place?
“If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food and one of you says to them ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” James 2:15-16
That’s a good question, isn’t it?
While I have no hard and fast solutions to offer, The Big Necessity has educated me on the connection between sanitation and clean water, and the following video offers a chance to do something about providing clean water.
Clean water will not solve all the problems of these developing countries, but I cannot continue saying ‘Go in peace, drink your fill of water and be well!’ and do nothing.
Please, watch the following video and join me in trying to make a difference. If any of you have other charities or organizations that you know are addressing sanitation and clean water, feel free to post links here in the comments. Finally, buy The Big Necessity and educate yourself about the thing that no one likes to talk about. Flush toilets are not the only answer. If fact, they are not the best answer to our sanitation needs and they are unwisely using our scare water supply, a resource that we can ill afford to waste.
And that, for this week, is the whole poop, so to speak.