Last week, we had a boil water advisory in effect for my township. We were instructed to drink only bottled water for 3 days until the pipes were fixed. I found myself boiling several gallons of water, brushing my kids’ teeth with bottled water, and giving them 5 minute “bucket showers” with purified water.
Essentially for 3 days, we lived like the water from the tap was not there, that we were without water.
Of course, we have water. We turn on a faucet, the clear fluid flows without abandon.
There’s no question that we are blessed to have this privilege.
For a few days, however in the summer of 2021, my kids and I got to learn a lesson about the importance of conservation, and how to use less water.
I explained how as a child, I had no hot water.
In our apartment in Dhaka, my mother would fill a bucket of water, let the sun “heat” the water, and I would shower on the balcony (I must have been 2 or 3 at the time). They cannot imagine not having hot water. They cannot imagine being without anything they already have– heat, home, water.
Yet, these are truly blessings.
I feel like I should give my kids bucket showers more often, let them experience what it is like to not have hot water, and be without the various comforts that are considered necessary in the modern age but are really just luxuries. Camping is the sort of thing that helps children step out of their comfort zone, and experience being without the objects they deem necessary.
My first camping experience was less than ideal.
My first camping experience was with a group of young girls from Queens and Brooklyn. None of us had camped before, or slept outdoors before. Just the thought of the bugs made us ill. I must have been 17 or 18. I told my mother it was a work retreat, that I would get paid, and therefore she did not push back. I was a youth counselor. I don’t remember the awe of being outside, or anything deep related to nature.
I remember many hiccups during this trip. I remember the discomfort, the hunger, and the deep annoyance I felt.
I remember the marshmallows were not halal so I could not eat them. I remember the meat was not halal, so I was mostly hungry. I remember I had a bedding situation in which there was another guy in my tent with other girls (another big problem I had to advocate for myself to get moved into another tent). I don’t remember much about nature, but I remember being deathly afraid that I would be killed in the woods, and no one would be able to find the body. I used to read a lot of Stephen King at this age, so my imagination did not help.
Of course, I slept fine, woke up normally. and returned to my home without any emotional or physical bruises. I think the hardest thing was trying to figure out how to make wudu and the pray in time, because no one else was Muslim at the campsite and my phone was dead. No one else really understood my issues, or needs.
My adult camping experience is more my style.
Today, I am going to the family retreat with Maqasid. It is something my husband and I have done with the littles since they were 2. We sleep in separate cabins divided by gender; we sit with teachers who care about our spiritual and emotional well-being; my children have childcare, and engaging programs where they make crafts, tell stories; we are given 3 meals a day; and there will be swimming in a lake! Almost all of our needs are tended to in the camp. It is a different kind of vacation. I remember the first time I had real smores — with marshmallows. I remember how I held my toddler so tight because of the fire, and how I was surrounded by friends I had known most of my life. I remember friends helping me keep an eye on my kid, and making sure we got to make extra smores. I felt safety, warmth, and comfort that my child was happy, and I was happy.
There are so many different things to look forward to during the retreat.
I am grateful we can experience camp as a family, as opposed to sending my children away. I know that’s part of American culture — sending kids away to camp– but I don’t think it works for me. I want to experience these things with my family. Some of the friends I made during the Maqasid camp are some of my closest friends today. There is a certain kind of family that is attracted to this kind of outing — in the woods, sleeping in bunk beds, going without the basics of modern life for so many days. I don’t even know if there will be wi-fi. We need to have these experiences to restore our sense of what is necessary, and what is needed. I want my duvet, but I don’t need it. I want my night cream, but I don’t need it. The only real essential thing is the water bottle!
I’m looking forward to reconnecting with friends and making new ones— despite the rise of the Covid cases, amidst a global pandemic.
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Really beautiful reflection on things we take for granted. Having clean water to drink, warm water in the winter to take showers, all wonderful blessings that we ought to show extreme gratitude for.
Camping reminds me of our mainstream culture movement towards stoicism, which is defined as
1. the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint;
2. an ancient Greek school of philosophy founded at Athens by Zeno of Citium. The school taught that virtue, the highest good, is based on knowledge; the wise live in harmony with the divine Reason (also identified with Fate and Providence) that governs nature, and are indifferent to the vicissitudes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.
So some, living their daily suburban/urban life, will take cold showers regularly, go days without eating food (water fasts), and otherwise deprive themselves to work on the first definition and perhaps others will escape the daily routine to approach the second definition.
I think the exercise of deprivation is beneficial in that it can make us more resilient, less needy of material, and more reliant on God. Though I think the crux of it is to focus on God.