Monday, December 2, 2013

In Praise of Hot Water

It was Murphy's Law at my house on Wednesday evening. I came home from work to discover that the hot water heater in my apartment had decided that this was the perfect time to move on to the Promised Land (or wherever old water heaters go). My building manager said she didn't know there were any that old still operating in any of the apartments. I could have lived without the reference to age. 

So here I was with seven people coming for dinner the next day and no hot water. Our maintenance man had gone hunting for the long Thanksgiving weekend. Fortunately my daughter had come over and done much of the cooking ahead of time so it was basically just the turkey to stuff and put in the oven. I figured we could boil water and wash the dishes the old fashioned way until Friday when they would get a plumber to install a new water heater.

Then came the issue of bathing. I boiled some water and carried it into the bathroom. After I poured it in the sink I went to raise the heat in the bathroom (each room has a baseboard heater with its own thermostat) and, low and behold ... no heat in the bathroom. Like the water heater, the baseboard heater crackled and creaked before it went to live with the spirit of the old water heater. Okay. I was a Girl Scout once. I know how to camp out. I carried my bath things into the kitchen where, thankfully, there was heat. I boiled more water and bathed in the kitchen. It wasn't pretty, but it got the job done.

As all of this was going on, instead of getting myself riled up over something I couldn't possibly control, I started to laugh. I thought to myself, "No wonder they only took baths on a Saturday night ... it was too much work to boil all that water and drag the tub into the kitchen to keep warm." The next day after dinner we made an assembly line: boil water, wash dishes, wipe dishes and put them away, boil more water, next batch of dishes, etc. We were laughing about how we felt like pioneer women. It struck me, then, that this is what the words "family" and "community" mean. This is how our ancestors lived, each dependent on one another, doing what had to be done to accomplish tasks we now zip through in mere minutes instead of the hours it took them. I realized that our modern way of life was built on the work and determination of those that came before us and I wondered, sadly, how much of that feeling of family and community we've lost as a result.

The next day someone sent me a Native American proverb on Facebook. The closing line was: "you are the result of the love of thousands." Have you ever stopped and thought of how many people came before you since the beginning of time to produce you right here, right now, in this moment? In this life of dishwashers, and indoor plumbing,and hot water, and heaters? I did that day. It was a moment filled with lots of humility and gratitude. 

I don't think I'll stop using a dishwasher or enjoying the benefits of a hot bath in a heated bathroom, but when I offer my daily prayer of thanks and gratitude, you can be sure that I will now include thanks for the love and hard work of the thousands that produced me, and I will never experience the joy of hot water running over my hands again without thinking of them.

And so it is.