Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Bucket in my Shower

I’m bothered by what I see as a societal ill that no one is really addressing: we are, in our crazily-connected, paperless, modern lifestyle becoming ignorant and uninformed.  Nobody reads the news anymore.  Instead, people read links on FaceBook, or they think that the Yahoo! headlines for the day are “news.”  People are more informed about Caitlin Jenner than about the drought affecting everyone in the Pacific Northwest. 


In our house, we get the local newspaper, and I’m honestly considering subscribing to the Seattle paper in addition, just for better coverage on national or international issues.  Does it cost money?  Sure, about $15 a month (gasp!).  Does it use up paper?  Yes, paper that can be recycled or composted or made into hats.  Could I possibly get all my news online instead?  Sure.  But none of these affords me the opportunity to teach my children to be informed and think critically.  What I worry about far more than the expense and inconvenience of paper is raising uninformed and un-intellectual children


Tony and I often converse about things we read in the morning paper (modeling, I like to think, intellectual curiosity and critical reasoning, though it is inadvertent – we like to read the paper and talk about current events), and Charles is old enough to be drawn into conversations, such as the one we had this weekend about the shootings in Charleston.


Now there was a tough subject to talk about with a six-year-old.


I mean, how do you even navigate that?


But perhaps a better question is, do you want your child to learn how to think critically and how to react to racism and tragedy by TEACHING him or do you want him to just “figure it out” based on whatever he might hear from the people around him?  Are you more worried about “burdening” your children with “worries” about the world, or about preparing them to deal with those issues and make the world a better place?


So we talked with Charles.  I don’t know the perfect things to say about race and racism in America, but I do know that I can have an honest conversation with my six-year-old about racism as I understand it and how we combat it.  I can talk to him about the bad people in the world and how they are so full of hatred for skin color that they do terrible things.  We can talk about how skin color does not determine what kind of person you are.  We can wonder about why a person might be so awful.  We can brainstorm ways to react to racist remarks.  We can talk about guns and violence.  We can talk about the value of human life.  We can talk about our friends who are minorities and some of the things they experience in their daily lives that are different than what we, as white people, experience.  And sadly, we can have these conversations often because in the past year, there’s been lots and lots in the news about racist violence.


We talk about sexual assault (my kids, at a young age, know that NO ONE is allowed to touch them if they don’t want them to and that they will NEVER get in trouble or get us in trouble if they tell us about a situation in which they felt uncomfortable or compromised – find the language to TALK to your kids about this!), gay marriage, equality of men and women, how we choose candidates for mayor or president, ecology of fish habitats, and sports.  Before you scoff, so much can be taught through sports and professional athletes about dedication, hard work, and sometimes, well, what not to do.


I don’t expect my children to grow up being crusaders (though if that’s what they want, fine), but I do expect them to grow up with an intellectual understanding of the challenges of our society and with compassion.  Also, I expect them to speak out and speak up when they see something that isn’t right.


It’s not all heavy news that we talk about over breakfast and dinner.  Sometimes, it’s useful stuff that merits widespread awareness.  For instance, the West Coast drought, snow pack at 0%, and a  PUD line repair conspiring to push us into a water crisis.  You’d better believe that my children know we need to conserve water right now – we are working on good conservation habits like turning off the faucet when we brush our teeth.  And poor Jamie, who wants nothing more than a “water” birthday party this weekend, will have to make do with the kiddie pool and the water table instead of the gushing slip-n-slide.  It’s going to be a long, hot summer.


I saw a local business pressure washing their parking lot this past week, so I called them and told them (nicely) about the drought and THEY HADN’T HEARD.  They were gracious about it, and turned off their pressure washer, but still.  How can you not know this?


As for me, I keep a bucket in my shower.  Every morning, when I wait for the hot water for my shower (which I keep trying to shorten and which I don’t take at all some days) to travel from the garage to the upstairs, I put the bucket under the faucet and fill it up.  Two-and-a-half gallons is how much water it takes to get the shower hot.  Two-and-a-half gallons when we aren’t supposed to wash our cars or water our lawns.  Two-and-a-half gallons that I then distribute between my outdoor plants.  Today, the front-yard roses.  Tomorrow, the hydrangea.  The next day, the rosemary bush.  You get the idea.


I do the same with my watering can at the sink.  I keep my watering can next to the kitchen sink and as I’m waiting for the water to get hot to wash dishes, I fill the can.  I also dump half-filled and abandoned glasses of water into the watering can or the dog dish or the water table outside. 


It’s water I already pay for that was doing nothing besides going down the drain.  I know this is a stupidly small act of conservation, and I know that conserving this amount of water each day instead of running the hose doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in the fight to keep agriculture from losing crops this summer, but it makes me feel good.  Combine that with the fact that I don’t water my lawn or wash my car, and won’t for the whole summer, then maybe I am making an impact.


What if we all did little things like this?


What if we all subscribed to the newspaper and made an effort to be informed, hold conversations with our children about current events, and start viewing real-world issues not as “adult” issues, but as issues that children can and should learn about?


What are we here for if not to make the world a little bit better?  Why did we have children if not to raise them to make the world a little bit better?


Leland said...

FORTUNATELY, the governor called me a few nights ago and told me that since I own a Lotus I'm allowed to wash it whenever I please. I wouldn't have believed it myself, but he hadn't assured me that he was indeed the governor and that I didn't have to worry about water conservation, so long as I keep the Lotus looking sharp. So that was nice of him. I didn't even vote for him, and when I told him so he didn't seem to care.

Tony Cook said...

That story is believable, right up until the last sentence.