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Monday, November 7, 2016

This Started Out as a Post about My Vacuum Cleaner

When people find themselves in crisis; everyday, ordinary things become meaningful.  A friend who worked for FEMA told me this.  In the midst of disaster, it is invaluable when someone hands you a blanket… a bottle of water… a cell phone…  It’s important to be able to do something ‘normal.’

Maybe that’s why I am finding it impossible to function without my vacuum cleaner, tonight.

Please do not misunderstand.  I am no lover of vacuuming.  I remember one Black Friday when there was some amazing deal on vacuum cleaners, and my husband asked if I wanted one.  My answer was yes, but not as a gift.  He could buy me a new vacuum cleaner because we needed one, and because the price was right, but I sure didn’t want to find it wrapped up under a tree somewhere.  Gifts should be special, but there’s nothing special about a vacuum cleaner.  Nobody wants a vacuum cleaner.  Unfortunately, anyone who has carpet in their house does, indeed, need one…

I’m thinking a lot about the difference between wants and needs, lately.  Most children can name the list of basic needs by the time they’re in preschool.  Food, water, shelter, clothing… check!   Interestingly, and especially in an election year in the United States, we add sanitation, education, and healthcare to the list.  I’m cool with that.  Does my vacuum cleaner count as sanitation?  But I think the list still falls short when it does not include community. 

There was a study conducted in the 1940s during which a group of healthy babies had all of their physiological needs provided but were given no affection.  Over half of them eventually gave up trying to communicate with caregivers and died.  Clearly, we need each other.  I wonder what kinds of implications this might have for adults who have given up on communication.  Even when it doesn’t result in a lack of communication with all people, I think we die a little bit every time we lose someone who has impacted our lives in any meaningful way.  That’s crisis and disaster, if ever there was one. 

I can’t claim to be 100% sure how to fix this, but I think it might begin by engaging in the foundational, basic, respectful meeting of needs.  I think it might begin by recognizing that our failures are huge, and we actually can’t fix any of it, at all, but we do have water to offer… and wine… and bread…  I think it might begin by being present.

And it’ hard, friends.  But maybe giving up is worse.


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