I was faced with two major stresses last week. The first is that my kitchen is being totally gutted and remodeled. The project sounded like fun until the day I saw my kitchen sink being hauled away. Left with no major appliances and no water source on the first floor of my house except for the outdoor hoses, I was left with the realization that I was going to be climbing steps often, all day long. Even the closest toilet is at the top of the stairs, as the downstairs powder room is part of the remodel. I joked, about half, that by the time construction was complete I was either going to have the firmest butt I’ve had in over 20 years, or I would be suffering from a nasty bladder infection. Every evening I fill a huge jug with water from upstairs and bring it down to the refrigerator that now resides in the garage. I also drag a dishpan of dirty dishes, which have been pre-rinsed throughout the day with a garden hose, up to the bathtub, where they are washed in hot water, dried and toted back downstairs. Laundry is being done in a big plastic tub in the back yard, wrung by hand and hung to dry on racks and on tree branches. I have an aversion to Laundromats.
My second stress of the week came with my father’s readmission to the hospital, the result of a postoperative infection. Thankfully, surgery wasn’t needed, but an infectious disease specialist had to be called in to determine what bacteria were responsible and what the best course of antibiotics, along with drainage of the abscess, would be needed. (Ironically my previous post concerning antibiotics was written the week before my father fell ill.) Dr. Seth Quartey is the name of the infectious disease specialist. The tone of his voice is strong and calming, his laugh fills a room, and his manner is warm and very approachable. He is someone who makes a stressful situation calmer with his presence. York is not a big city, but it certainly isn’t a small town. And yet his name had a familiar ring to me. I noticed his rich accent, and pegged it as Ivory Coast. Later, when discussing my father’s condition with my daughter, she pointed out that I had indeed heard the name before. Several years before, I had met this doctor’s wife and his daughter, who was in my grandson’s preschool. That is when it came flooding back to me. There had been stories of how they and members of their church started an organization to bring fresh water to Ghana, where both had grown up.
According to Dr. Quartey, something as simple as clean water can reduce deaths from infectious disease by as much as 50%. Mrs Quartey said that some children have to haul the water for their family 4 miles, making learning harder when they are so worn out by the time they get to class. It made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to climb the stairs or access a garden hose while waiting a few weeks for a brand new kitchen. When I drag myself upstairs to use that toilet, my flush sends the sewage through an enclosed system that ends at a treatment plant and not into an open drain at the side of the road.
I wanted to learn more. We have easy access to information through Google. It led me to https://www.buildingsolidfoundations.org/activity/news.html, where I found the rest of the story. I was able to see photographs that ran the gamut from heartbreaking to spectacularly beautiful. I saw what we take for granted. I was reminded that even though we are in what is, by our standards, a slow economy, we are still incredibly wealthy and incredibly spoiled by what we take for granted. We live in a country where there are water parks. We render our water undrinkable so we can swim in it and slide down giant slides into it and ride in log shaped boats on tracks that plummet us into it. We wash our cars with it and we hook up sprinklers and saturate our lawns with it and we keep our golf courses green with it. We clog our landfills with discarded plastic bottles that we drank it from. We allow it to run from our faucets while we brush our teeth, and we take extra long showers and give our laundry that extra rinse to keep our whites white and our brights bright. When we don’t have what we consider easy access to it, we feel like we are roughing it. I will be happy when I get my sink back. I will be thrilled to have a dishwasher and a washer for my laundry. I have also double-checked to make sure those new appliances are as energy efficient and conserve as much water is possible. I will remember the faces of the people I saw in the photographs from Ghana, and I will be so thankful for what I have. Sometimes all we need to do is open our front door and take a look at the world around us to realize how very fortunate we are.