Dignity

12 days to 50.

Last week I saw something on television where professionals were stuck in a hotel room together and one of them said something like- “Isn’t this glamorous being in a fancy hotel in the middle of the day?” To which a no-nonsense blonde replied- “Yes, 4 of us sharing one bathroom hearing every drop hit the water. Really glamorous.”

It made me think of toilets and dignity. In the Army they take the doors off the stalls so everybody can see you doing your business. Out in the field they build latrines that are big open rooms with slabs of wood with holes cut in them. No stalls, no doors, everyone is stripped of their privacy. In the beginning people avoid eye contact, everything is incredibly uncomfortable, but by the end nobody cares anymore. No one soldier is better than any other. The military has this training down to a science.

It also made me think of an incident that happened on our last trip to Africa. Here’s my journal entry from that day-

“Saturday March 19, 2011

Pit Stop

It can be difficult to find a place for a pit stop in rural Ethiopia. Almost everywhere you stop there are people walking or running from the bushes. On our first trip we had my friends’ mother with us so our guide made sure we had designated toilet stops when we were driving through the country. On the second trip I was the only woman and this consideration did not happen. On one of the long driving days I knew I had to stop. I watched for an hour trying to find a relatively isolated place and finally I asked our driver to pull over.

As soon as I ran behind a ditch I heard them running. Children from the houses in the distance running and screaming towards the stopped Jeep 4×4. They know that 4x4s are filled with tourists so they always swarm the jeep to see what the can get. Plastic water bottles, pens, candy. I crouched in the ditch anyway and did my business. At least 10 kids ran by me to the car. They all saw me and each and every one of them ran by me to give me my privacy. They could easily have swarmed me, I’m pretty sure none of them have seen a white woman with her pants down. These children have next to nothing but they honored me with all the respect they had.”

One of the things I took away from Africa is the fact that living a more comfortably lifestyle does not make people better human beings. I wonder if that same scenario would have happened in rural Kansas what the American children would have done. I doubt they would have as gracious or as generous.

We all have the capacity for the generosity and the grace of the people I met in the country in Africa. So many of us get lost in all the stress and conflicts of modern life. We forget that we are all connected. We are all human. We all deserve to both treat others and to be treated with generosity and grace.

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