I was hungry. Starving I thought. I had some cold cooked rice and warm kale, dosed it with Goddess dressing. Who knew that would be delicious? I felt victorious at discovering something easy yet good. Easy is good, right?
As my coffee (organic, fair trade of course) steeped I stepped over to wash the dishes from my super simple lunch. One bowl, one pot, a wooden spoon. Warm water flowed from the tap. I filled the pot then used that water to wash up the rest. See, I’m conserving water, good job, right?
It was noon my time and the first food of the day. The morning got away from me. Normally I have little meals throughout the day, maximize energy, minimize consumption. I live very small, I plan how I use resources and often I have no idea how I will buy food or pay rent. It is stressful but fully my choice. I want to understand life how it really is in real world terms. I want the truth of that to be part of my experience. But the real truth is that no matter how small I may wish to be it will never come close to the reality of experience most women live every day. They have no choice. By the random lottery of existence they were born in a country with no steady and healthy supply of water or food. They face violence at trying to eat, drink and wash up. Here is how the Voss Foundation breaks it down:
“Water sources are often far from the village, and women must walk for hours to fetch water daily. Some families even keep their daughters at home so that they can help collect water. Instead of going to school, these girls follow their mothers and walk, on average, at least 10 miles every day (source). While walking to get water, particularly when they must walk alone before or after daylight hours, women are vulnerable to rape and other violent attacks.”
“The journey also requires them to carry buckets of water weighing over 40 pounds on their heads (source). Carrying such a heavy load over long distances has detrimental health effects, including back and chest pains, developmental deformities, arthritic disease, and miscarriages.”
“Drinking the water in Sub-Saharan Africa is often just as hazardous as retrieving it. Women are not only at risk of sickness themselves, but are also responsible for taking care of family members who fall ill after drinking contaminated water. Furthermore, they may then have to take on the labor of the sick family member, on top of their own labor, while they nurse their loved ones back to health (source).”
Let that sink into for a minute.
To get water they may die. To live without out water they will surely die. There are no choices within that.
It’s an extravagant thing to be so privileged I can afford however much water I want. If I didn’t have that I could walk down to the super clean river which flows through town and fill a bottle. I have carried forty pounds of water for a quarter of a mile and felt proud. I have never carried forty pounds of water on my head for ten miles and wondered if I would be attacked or if that water would poison my family.
These are the thoughts that run through me hydrating my heart as I wash my little bowl with clean tap water pouring down the drain as if it will never run dry, as if no one is thirsty or dying for it. I let myself cry. More water running freely.
There is not guilt. I can no more change my happy accident of birth than a woman so like me but living in the Congo can change her place of arriving on Earth. I just want to think of her every time I wash a dish, drink a glass of water or soak in a warm tub. I want to appreciate her, me and the whole random catastrophe of life. And I want to use my privilege to make her life one drop easier. I want to give away any rank I have if it will make anyone’s life a tick better. I want to do that because it’s easier than hoarding and swelling with the accidental ease of my life.
Being born with so much is not my fault. Failing to notice that fact or use it wisely–that’s totally on me.
Love your water, love your sister, awaken from your sleep and let the joy and sadness roll down your cheeks in rage, compassion and finally, my beloved, in the one thing that changes everything else–loving action.
Here is one way to help, copy and paste and check it out: