Okay, I’m a couple of days late on the thankful post. But today I was inspired by a colleague’s post on the Mothers In Medicine blog: I’m Thankful For A Bridge . In this piece, she describes that when a bridge she barely noticed had to be closed, it affected her life in a big way. At the end, she asks the reader to think about what mundane things they are thankful for.

This is a good question. Of course I’m thankful for my husband and kids, my family and friends, my job and home. But there’s so much else to be thankful for, things that we barely think about.

We got a reminder on that last month. I had peeled a couple of pounds of potatoes, and I stuffed the peels down the kitchen garbage disposal. Awhile later, we had a backup in the sink. Okay, no biggie, we plunged, we pushed, we fussed. When that didn’t work, we poured baking soda and vinegar down and waited overnight. When that didn’t work, and we realized water was pouring out of the motor casing of the garbage disposal, we called the plumber.

It was the plumber who noticed we had a flood in the basement. He also realized the job was bigger than he could handle.

The clog was in one of the pipelines beyond our house. We couldn’t use any of the plumbing in the kitchen, or the washer. It was four days of snaking and roto-rootering by two different specialists (and over a thousand dollars) before we could wash dishes or clothes.

It was a pain, but not the end of the world. We put a basin in the sink to catch water so we could wash our hands, then we would toss the used water out the back door. The dirty clothes piled up and up. We adjusted.

It reminded me… Years and years ago, I did a few stints of medical volunteer work in Central America. Twice I stayed in villages without reliable electricity, and no running water. The homes I stayed in had wells; they also collected rainwater. Water for washing and bathing was kept in big barrels. When these were running low, someone had to haul water from the well. A bath was whatever water you could carry to the plain concrete room, and dump over yourself. If drinking water wasn’t bought or delivered, we had to boil well or rainwater.

Once, when the rainwater we used to wash our hands in the clinic smelled funny, someone went up to the catchbasin on the roof with a net on a long pole, and came down with a bucket of dead rat and frog carcasses. It was apparently not uncommon for thirsty animals to fall in and drown…

At the end of one six week trip, on the plane ride home from Managua to Miami, I turned the water spigot in the tiny odorous lavatory, and clear water poured out for me to wash my hands. I almost cried. I marveled that on a plane trip of two hours, there was running water. In a village of a thousand people, there was no running water.

Though our plumbing ordeal was annoying and expensive, it wasn’t a big deal in the face of the fact that most of the world doesn’t have reliable access to clean water. Our experience actually made great fodder for funny stories (think about it before you stuff vegetable peels down the garbage disposal), and we now have the low-down on all the local plumbers. Need a plumber? Let me tell you who to call and who not to call…

We had a second mini-Thanksgiving today, and I just finished washing loads and loads of pots, pans and dishes. The dishwasher is humming and churning. The kids are going up to take their bath. Yes, we are quite thankful for clean, running water. Something we don’t often think about, but so, so important.