When was the last time you washed anything by hand? What was it? Perhaps it was a sweater or bra that required special care. Or perhaps it was a pair of socks because you ran out of socks a day before laundry day.
Have you ever had to worry about not having enough laundry detergent? Or a better question – do you have to worry about not having laundry detergent every time you do the laundry?
Do you have enough underwear and socks that you can do laundry, say, once a week? Or do you have to wash your underwear and sock every night so that you’ll have clean ones tomorrow?
Do you have a washing machine at home or do you have to go to a laundromat every time you want to wash a load of clothing? If you have a washing machine at home, I have 3 questions for you. Do you also have a clothes dryer? Did you find your washer “at the dump?” Does your washing machine have water gushing out of the bottom every time you use it?
Some of these questions may seem a bit too personal for you – like do you have enough underwear to go more than one day without washing it. Others may seem ridiculous. All of these questions occurred to me as I pondered my conversation with a mom from Pine Ridge reservation.
I spoke to this mom last evening, just after she arrived home from work. Please don’t mistake work to be the equivalent of a job. Many on the reservation work TANF hours for tribal offices in order to receive the benefits for their children (TA in the acronym indicating Tribal Assistance). We enrolled her children for sponsors and got their sizes for the OKINI (Lakota for sharing) list that ONE Spirit operates in addition to the sponsorship program. Then we chatted for a while.
She told me that laundry detergent was one of the things she never had enough of (she has a family with 2 adults and 3 children). It is also expensive to purchase on the reservation. She also told me that, because the kids don’t have enough underwear and socks, she tends to have to wash underwear and socks every night by hand.
Then she told me the part of the story that really made me grateful for what I have. She told me that, before they got their washing machine, she had to wash ALL their clothing by hand!! Can you imagine washing laundry for 5 people by hand all the time?!
They finally found a washing machine “at the dump” that someone had gotten rid of because it “leaked.” Since they have a basement with a drain, they took it home to try it. It definitely leaked! In fact, as she described it, water gushes out of the bottom when it is used. But the water goes down the drain in the basement and the washer functions, so they use it. She considers it a blessing to have it!
And that, folks, is the difference between living on the reservation and being you and me. I’m not saying we all expect things to be perfect (though many do these days) and I’m not saying we aren’t grateful for what we have (though it seems many people are not satisfied with what they have). But the women I speak to on the reservation are strong enough to see that everything is relative.
A “leaky” washing machine is something to be grateful for when it means you don’t have to do all your laundry by hand.
Now, all she has to do is figure out how to afford laundry detergent, underwear and socks. Since her “job” pays about $450 per month, from which she has to pay rent, propane for heat, electricity, phone and food, clothing (including underwear and socks) is at the end of the list.
Laundry detergent. Shoes. Socks and underwear. Winter jackets. Warm clothing for the severe SD winter. Those are the kind of things that a sponsor can help with to help moms on the reservation. I know, I’ve been a sponsor for quite a while now.
So the next time you are doing your laundry in a washing machine with all the laundry detergent you need, this about this mom. It will change your perspective on laundry, if not on life!