Recently we experienced a power failure. That’s not unusual, but at the same time some workers in our condominium complex accidentally cut off our water. At the time our washer was going as was our dishwasher. One of our bathrooms was in use also. So there we sat, staring at each other. I was immediately overcome by the silence of it all. It started me thinking. Thinking back to my childhood. Remembering how it was.
I was raised in the rural South. We did not have electricity or running water. We even had a saying, “running water meant that you had to run and get it.” We did have a well and even had a pump in the kitchen that had to be pumped to get water. Of course we had no refrigerator. We had an ice box. My mother had a sign that told the iceman how much ice we needed, a big sign he could read from the street. He would chip off a block and bring it into the house and put it in the ice box. I was a teenager before we had indoor plumbing. On cold rainy nights the outhouse seemed far, far away.
Baths consisted of heated water from the wood-burning cookstove poured into a tub in the middle of the floor and then shared by me and my two brothers. You can imagine how the water looked for the third bath. It’s no wonder baths were weekly projects back then.
My mother cooked on that wood-burning stove, and I can remember the heat that was generated, especially on those hot, humid summer days. But cook she did. We had three hot meals every day. Breakfast, dinner and supper. We didn’t know any different. I guess we were poor but we didn’t know it. It was a happy time.
Today, I live in a beautiful condo with central air conditioning and heat. We set our thermostat, and our environment is automatically created. We cook on an electric stove with an electric oven. We have a microwave oven that seems magical even today. We have a refrigerator with an automatic ice maker. We have three bathrooms with showers and they are all inside. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this when I was a child. What was once a fantasy is now commonplace. Dreams have become realities.
My thoughts then traveled to other parts of the world. What is common for us today is still a dream in many parts of the world. Clean running water is a fantasy for many. Indoor plumbing is almost nonexistent. Air conditioning would be “Star Wars” fantasy. This situation I am describing is, I believe, the norm in most of Africa and much of Asia. We live and they exist. How fortunate we are.
Of course our water came back on. Our power returned and all our appliances started again to do the work we require of them. Our lives returned to the normalcy we expect. Memories of my childhood return to the recesses of my mind. Our power failure and our water cut-off were inconveniences. My life is good again.
Still my thoughts are of the millions who don’t have these modern miracles. I think of children drinking dirty water. In my mind’s eye I see women cooking over open fires. I wonder if it will ever change. Here in America, our poorest live lives of comparative luxury much of the world could only imagine. And we all, including me, take what we have for granted. I also wonder if that will ever change.