Ever have one of those “yucky” moments? Like, when you put your hand in a box, feeling around for some specific item only to come upon something gooey, wet and, of course “yucky.”
Searching for aspirin the other day, I opened a kitchen cabinet door, and reached into a large metal box I crammed some 30 medicines. The box is 12 inches by 12 inches, and has handles so you can pull it out and reach in, quickly finding what’s needed. I stretched my hand into the container to “feel” around for that small pain-relieve capsule. They’re pretty much all made in the old Tylenol plastic cylinder-style, and easy to find by touch.
This time, I had to move things around, and I touched the bottom of the metal container. “Yuck” I said aloud, pulling my hand out to see what it had contacted. Gooey red stuff coated my fingertips. It was sticky. Placing it to my nose, I sniffed. Cough medicine?
How the heck did that get in there?
Out comes the full metal box and onto the kitchen counter, as I started pushing larger items out of the way to inspect the bottom. Milk of Magnesium, Tums, mouthwash and other larger containers are in my way, as I feel more and more of the red substance clinging to the bottom sixteenth inch of every jar, cardboard box and plastic bag.
“Ah ha!” I say, as I see an empty 10-ounce plastic container — a CVS-brand cough suppressant. A measuring cap covers the top. But there is no lid! Somebody stuck the jar on the top of the rest of the items, tilting it so that it lay flat over the other medicines. But with no lid, all the liquid spilled out, virtually coating every thing else.
“Jesus Christ,” I let out, searching for the right words to express my surprise and immediate discomfort. “Who the hell put this here?”
Of course, I get no answer, and my mind starts to focus on retaliation, go after the family member who was so careless in committing what I am soon perceiving as a “mortal sin,” one my PTSD-inflicted brain is making worse and worse as each second goes by. (PTSD — post traumatic stress disorder.) I want to pour the contents of all the medicines on their heads, force them to clean up the mess right then and there, and have them beg for forgiveness which I may or may not grant, depending on my mood.
And then, it hits me. It was an accident. No one intended to cause this “yuckiness.” It just “happened.” with no reckless disregard for the comfort of another. Still, I thought, I should get them to clean it up. It’ll be quite a chore to take out every item, rinse and dry them, and return ’em to a metal container which also needed spray-cleaning.
All of a sudden, the thought of Haiti struck home. Here in mid-January, 2010, our world is witnessing one of the greatest devastations of human life and property in our life-time. And I’m complaining about a little mess in my relatively clean, albeit cluttered-up kitchen!
I started taking out each item, placing them in a nearby cardboard box, separating the salvageable things and noticing how few were actually ruined. A few “band aids,” some cough drops, loose papers of gum and whatnot. I cleaned every last one, feeling so much gratitude to still have the use of the products compared to the losses suffered by my fellow-men and women living off the mainland of the Americas. I was almost joyful to have had experienced this spill so that I could reach such a high state of ego-suppression, this welling up of gratitude.
My “suffering,” if you want to call it that — the “yuckies” — is nothing. A brief inconvenience. A slight pause in the routine of my kitchen jaunt. Doesn’t really amount to a whole hill of beans.
Except . . . for what I learned from this. What my awareness of this moment in time, the few seconds of my life as it connected with the lives of so many sentient beings more “deserving” of my attention to suffering. I would like to remember this moment the next time I feel “yucky.” It will remind me of how grateful I am right now. How we should all feel for those in Haiti when the word “suffering” dares to cross our lips.