Lately I have been thinking about the difference between wanting and needing. From the basics in life: food, water, simple clothing and shelter, to the more luxurious things like fine food and wine, really cute shoes, and fast internet, I am beginning to ask the BIG question: what is really important?
In the last few years there has been a rash of “end of the world” movies, cashing in on the Incan prediction that the world will end in 2012. Twice on South American buses I have seen the one with John Cusack saving his family from such threats as fiery explosions, the earth cracking wide open to swallow up cities, and ocean waves engulfing and destroying everything in their paths. If the world is ending, I guess I’m ready, but I really don’t want to fight off explosions and ocean waves, thank you very much. Just take me quickly; I’ll go peacefully!
But if there were really an end of the world scenario, could I take it? I mean, aside from worrying about loved ones and lost pets and possessions, when it comes down to the bare bones of life and survival, how tough am I, really?
For the last week or so, I have been staying in Peru in a gorgeous old run-down grand dame of a house, with a name befitting a grand dame: La Casona. She is a large wooden salmon-colored two story house, more than a hundred years old. She sits on a little hill looking out over the ocean, and from the broad, wrap-around deck, you can watch surfers bob upon the water as they vie for the next big wave. Casona is a beautiful spot. However, with this little bit of heaven comes a little bit of hell. We have been without proper water for a week, as Lobitos is located in the desert and there is always a shortage of water that is brought in from the municipality, when we are lucky, and pumped into the water tank that supplies the houses showers and toilets. No water means no showers, and no showers means my hair starts to look a bit like Bob Marley’s, but it’s way cuter on him. To top it off, the typical Peruvian toilet has no seat, and of course you can’t put toilet paper in the bowl; it goes in a trash can next to the potty. No me gusta!
Now if this sounds like no big deal to you, I applaud you. And although I’m not trying to whine, and I did have a bucket bath only yesterday, it has made me think about appreciating the luxuries that we in America (as well as other places that are blessed with modern conveniences) have at our fingertips every day. I am the last person to go around waving an American flag, and there are many things I don’t like about my country (such as lack of health care or affordable education) but I must say that three months in South America has made me feel deeply blessed. I also know that poverty, and a lot of it, exists right in our own backyard; that I don’t have to travel far to see it. It makes me want to do something to help my struggling neighbors (before I save Peru!) Oh, but first I have to get a job.
So if it comes down to the end of the world, how am I going to survive running through the streets in tattered clothes, ducking into burned-out buildings, scrounging for food, when I can’t even handle going without a shower for a week?
I guess I’ll have to ask John Cusack how it’s done….