This article is written by our Guest Author John from Live Young and Well
I never knew how a toilet flush worked.
Until I went to Peru.
I was doing my (big) business.
Stood up, hit the flush.
As any person would do.
Hit the flush again, harder this time.
Not knowing what to do next, I gingerly closed the toilet bowl.
Stepped out of the toilet.
A few minutes later, my host mother calls me.
Opps. I'm done for this time.
Necesitas poner el agua, aqui!
You need to put the water, here!
She raises the lid of the flush tank, pours water in it, and then flushes.
I nod, anxious to get out of the toilet.
Luckily, the toilet bowl remains closed.
Here is a curious question.
This experience got me thinking.
What are things you don't take for granted?
That's tough, isn't it?
You and I know the things we take for granted.
Like electricity. Flick a switch, and the light goes on.
Like internet. Unlock your phone, and WhatsApp messages stream in.
Like water. Open your tap, and water flows out.
But what are the things you don't?
Because when you observe the things you don't take for granted, you begin to see things around you differently.
One way to work through this question is to look at things you think you cannot live without.
When you leave the home, you always ensure that these things are on you.
Maybe your keys, wallet, phone.
You couldn't live without them.
It sure feels like we can't live without them, but why is that?
Why do we value these things that enhance the way we live more than the ones that physically keep us alive?
Or might be that you couldn't leave without them?
Living and leaving, and its fine distinction.
There's a fine distinction between something you can't live without, and something you can't leave without.
You might think this is another piece telling you the difference between luxury and necessities. Sharing another story that makes you emotional. And to encourage you to donate to Wateroam's work at the end of the day.
No, it's not.
It's to draw a common thread between our experience of lack, and others' experience of lack.
It's to say that this experience of scarcity... is something that you and I know.
Whether it be scarcity of water or scarcity of WIFI (that makes us go scrambling for the WIFI password), we know it.
We know lack.
We know what it feels like.
But the question is:
What if the things we lack actually impacted our survival?
We might feel like we'd perish without access to our phone, but can you image if we extended that same emotional appreciation to the things that we truly need to live.
Coincidentally, the theme of World Water Day this year is Valuing Water, something I didn't expect to learn to do during my trip to Peru.
I flew from the U.K. to Peru to volunteer in June 2017.
I didn't know anything about Peru. I didn't know that Machu Picchu was in Peru.
Only knew that I wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, so that I could practice Spanish.
Yet, four years on, I treasure my time in Peru for more than just the Spanish I learned there.
It's the small things that matter.
In Peru, I lived in a local's home.
It wasn't fancy.
Initially, I wondered why there were these huge pails of water around the home. One morning, I woke earlier than usual. Hearing some sounds in the kitchen, I took my pillow (it was the only thing I could find), walked out of the room, and peered downstairs.
Not a machete-wielding robber.
Just my host mama.
Filling pail after pail with water from the tap.
Later, I found out that water only flowed from the taps from 4 to 530am each morning.
When I asked why, my friend shrugged her shoulders.
No se. Es Peru.
Don't know, it's Peru.
Lives flower around water.
My life, too, began flowing around water.
I showered once every 3 days, when I was at the gym. That was the only place I got water out of a faucet.
I never knew what it felt like to live without water... until I stopped expecting water to come out of a faucet. The assumption that turning a faucet equated to water flowing out no longer held true.
Or that flushing equated to the toilet bowl being cleaned.
It was not until I returned to England that I realised how this experience had changed me.
My housemate had (kindly) reminded me to flush the toilet after I used it.
Oh sorry, I was trying to save water.
She promptly complained to our landlord.
It's the small things that matter.
The small things that end up being very significant.
Like the small notification that pops up on your phone, saying someone liked your picture. That leads you down a rabbit hole on Instagram.
Or the small saving you put aside every month that compounds to a significant sum.
Or the small action of turning off the faucet just a tad earlier, rather than allowing it to run.
It's the small things that matter. The small actions. The small things, done persistently, equate to large things.
The audacity of hope
There's a container of water at the front of the class in Peru.
In school, there are no water coolers. Just water containers.
I turn the tap on, filling my flask.
Take a drink.
Then I walk around the class, trying to help some students with their English.
There's a boy who raises his hand excitedly and beckons me over.
He smiles with a twinkle in his eye.
He's up to something.
Profe, como se dice guapo en ingles? (Teacher, how do you say 'handsome' in English?)
Pero por qué? (But why?)
Porque estoy guapo. Quiero decirlo en Estados Unidos! (Because I am handsome. I want to say that in the
Writing this in the comfort of my home, I smile to myself.
It's interesting, isn't it?
That despite the hopelessness of what was around them - poverty and scarcity, that these children still dared to dream.
These dreams... are like seeds.
Water them, and they'll grow.
Wateroam is committed to re-imagining a world without thirst, because it's not only about their thirst, but our thirst. Find out more about their work here.
John writes about how you can understand, unlock and unleash people's potential through social services at liveyoungandwell.com.
Blog Author: John Lim
Chief Editor: Michelle Falcone