This was one of the rules where I stayed, near the Haitian tent camp last week. Although I was sleeping in a tent, I had access to toilets and to conserve precious water this sign was posted over the toilets. I admit it, I broke the rule a couple of times. I don’t mind peeing in a toilet already full of urine. But, I don’t want to sit and do #2 with any chance that a big one might make a splash–and the thought of all that urine in the water, hitting my butt…..OMG. So, I flushed before and after #2. Didn’t feel too guilty about the one.
Kidding aside, what do you get by spending a week in Haiti? Of course there is some satisfaction in helping others. But more importantly I think that it makes you look at yourself: your situation, your goals, your needs in life, your ego. Things we take for granted, are re-evaluated for a while, and maybe forever if we are lucky. I can take a shower here, open my mouth and not worry if I swallow the water. I flush the toilet, every time, and I can put the toilet paper in the toilet, not in a trash can. I have all my belongings, in a home. I don’t have intestinal worms, scabies, and ringworm because I don’t have to live in a tent with a dirt floor.
Another blogger has talked about the pyramid of human needs. Many of us are very fortunate that we can work on ourselves at the top of the pyramid, our more basic needs are taken care of. And after talking to a friend, there was another perspective. It is somewhat relative, in that everyone can re-evaluate their situation and be thankful, even the Haitians I was seeing. Maybe some of them say to themselves, thank God I at least have this tent, that I had free medical care today, that I even survived the earthquake when my friends or family did not. We may assume that we are better off, but don’t we complain about our situation too? We complain about are jobs, the costs of food, the cost of gas, falling home prices, the price of an airplane ticket. I get that it’s different, but in a way, it’s the same. It’s relative.
Life is full of positive and negative. Always the polarity, one can not exist without the other. There is always a silver lining to the cloud, but sometimes it is difficult to see it in the midst of the storm. Maybe being a volunteer is sort of like handing someone an umbrella. It can help shift a perspective, and give hope-on both sides.