What I mean when I say clean

My friend, Sandra, visited my house a few weeks ago. She had never been to my place. The first thing she said was, “It smells clean.” She could scarcely have paid a sweeter compliment.

My dad was from a clan of cleaner-than-thou folks. His mama could wear out a wash rag on a kitchen cabinet. His brother kept a can of spray Lysol in the glove compartment of his car. My dad’s mechanic shop had a floor that one could perform open heart surgery.

My sister and I inherited the clean gene. Since I have been in college, we have engaged in a ritual of vacuuming when we see each other, before we eat, before we chat at length, we clean. A good clean sweep clears the air between long spells.

You can scarcely imagine how I was affected by my first extended stay in Honduras. I was volunteering with World Vision for eight weeks during a break from teaching. My guest room was in the patio of a middle-class home. The place seemed alright, except that the city was repairing sewer lines in the street.

For 8 weeks, raw sewage assaulted my senses every morning and every night. To make things worse, my worksite was in Villa Franca, a neighborhood that lacked basic services such as garbage pick-up. Mounds of refuse with the accompanying starving dogs greeted me at the entrance of the colonia. The toilet at the kindergarten and clinic was a hole in the ground that, for modesty’s sake, was enclosed within a wooden shack.

Not surprisingly, I had one of my best years as far as weight loss. I may be fat now, but by God, but there have been lean years, too. Those smells and sights there helped motivate me to shed a few pounds.

After I moved to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, I realized that Hondurans are not on a mission to be unsanitary. It’s just hard work to stay clean when one is poor and government services are not up to US standards.That’s why after I was there a few years, I began to ask my guests from the US to attempt to try to not appear horror-stricken at meal times.

My US friends looked like they were indulging in a sacred rite, more holy than Communion, when Purell was pulled out of a backpack. Conversation ceased, hands were held out, and the alcohol flowed freely.

I still like clean. In fact, I love the smell of clean. I just know now that Honduran housewives work very hard to keep themselves and their homes clean. We should all try hand washing our clothes for a week. Or dishes for that matter outside because most lack plumbing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it’s time to bathe. We will use a bucket, a bar of soap and a towel behind a small curtain in the yard. That’s how most of my Honduran friends keep themselves clean.

“Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow,”  is part of a prayer in Psalm 51. Jesus referred to unclean spirits as afflicting people. He came to bring something utterly holy and clean in exchange for the stain of sin and the uncleanliness of evil. The wonder of God’s word is how universal it appeals. Most of us want to be clean. Spiritually, to be clean, is something I think we have to receive from God.

But what about physical cleanliness? God isn’t here in human form to wash dirty clothes or bathe children. That’s where you and I have to do our part. We have to care about the poor who don’t have access to clean water.

Last year, I participated in a fundraiser for Blood:Water, a non-profit funding water projects in Africa. I will write a post about how I helped bring clean water to those without access soon. Why not see how you can be involved? Follow the link to Blood:Water for information.

3 thoughts on “What I mean when I say clean

    1. Yes, Claudya, we have to be educated and sometimes we need to experience poverty ourselves before passing judgement. I received your comments while I was still editing. I changed the ending a bit. God is great, sure. He makes a difference in my life. But he’s not here in human form. We are here right now with so many around the globe who don’t have access to clean water. I feel another blog post is in the works on that idea.


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