But she was away for the weekend, I was really, really sick of kitchen time and avoiding dishes, and I wanted her to come home to a clean bed, not the sheets that had tissues all over them last week when she had a miserable cold. It was fun seeing her reaction and feeling her gratitude. Part of why it was pleasant for me to clean is that I grew up in a clean house. Mom worked really hard to keep our home in good shape, and she kept after us to take care of our space.
Katie has gotten so used to not having enough space and the resulting mess that it's grown comfortable for her. It's what she's used to. It's a little frustrating sometimes to not be able to find clean socks, but mostly she's surrounded by the things she cares about, the bottom sheet, at least, is on the bed, and it's familiar. It's home.
She's working hard to take better care of herself and her things, and she has a lot more self discipline than I do. She quit smoking cold turkey, went hiking the last two weekends, and is taking several other steps to manage her life better. I hope this clean room will catch on, and clean will become the familiar, comfortable way to keep it.
We all do this. We get used to what we do, or what we have, or who we see, and we start to believe that this is the world. We insulate ourselves with people who are like us, with things that suit our economic status, with activities that support our comfortable routine. We forget that generations of people came before us, sacrificing and saving and working extra hard so that we can have the lifestyle we enjoy. We forget how few years ago it was that everybody walked everywhere, that roads were all dirt, and if the horse was tired, you didn't get to go on that outing and if the wood didn't get chopped supper would be raw.
We forget that the whole world doesn't have electricity, let alone internet. Or clean drinking water, or shoes. We forget that people flee for their lives in war-torn countries only to be denied sanctuary. Our country kills people who kill people because killing people is wrong, and we don't let that touch us. We re-watch Downton Abbey and sip herbal tea and get tired of how much laundry there is. Because we have so many clothes, when millions of people have only what they can wear and carry. We are comfortable in our familiar, affluent, I-don't-have-everything-I-want-but-my-needs-are-met-and-then-some world bubble.
Is this OK? We know that children are unclothed, unfed, unschooled, and unwashed somewhere far away and that's all they know, so they've probably grown relatively comfortable with their miserable circumstances. We push that inconvenient knowledge to the back of our minds, where it eats at hidden whispery parts of our souls. It breeds guilt, and we feel defensive, and then we get angry with people who aren't part of our bubble because we shouldn't have to feel guilty about something we didn't create.
I have relatives in Hawaii and I think of Pearl Harbor. I watch BBC programs and am reminded that people just like us were being bombed not that long ago. Journalists are murdered to scare us. Doctors working to stop the spread of horrible diseases catch them and die. No, I don't want to think about that. What shall I make for dinner?
We all really need to let ourselves be uncomfortable. Only by being painfully aware of the plight of most of humanity can we ever be whole and spiritually strong. Only by caring, letting it hurt, and connecting with one another's woundedness can we ever achieve peace.