I want to write a comprehensive blog post about the power of a shower (full disclosure: I didn’t think up that phrase. It belongs to an entire organization).
The idea of a blog post about providing places for people to take showers who don’t have their own facilities has been germinating in my head for quite some time. It started when I included an article about mobile restrooms for women in Pune, India, in the International City/County Managers Association newsletter from SmartBrief, which I edit. The concept itself interested me, especially because it helps create restroom equity for women. I also recall the conversation I had with the copy editor about this article.
The copy editor said, “WiFi? Why do the buses need WiFi?”
This copy editor and I knew each other’s worldviews well enough by this point in our working relationship that it made perfect sense that I hadn’t batted an eyelash when reading that refurbished buses that had been turned into mobile toilets also had showers and WiFi whereas he wondered why WiFi mattered.
I said, “… in many developing countries, people rely heavily on smartphones, so perhaps because of that? Or because it’s meant to be a bit of a respite (the cafe, etc. [have I mentioned the buses have cafes?]). I guess life is hard there and it’s an attempt to make it a little less so?”
A friend with knowledge of the city of Pune said, ” WiFi makes sense to me. It’s ubiquitous now. Pune is a major city outside Mumbai. I don’t think class matters. Everyone uses the Internet everywhere….If they want people to spend time there (beyond just using the restroom) WiFi will make people stay longer. Similar to a coffee shop here. No WiFi vs. Free WiFi? Fugghedaboudit. [This perhaps ties in to the fact that the refurbished buses are still trying to determine revenue models.]
How Lava Mae is helping people in the US get showers
Closer to home I learned recently of an organization, Lava Mae, that offers free showers to homeless people in San Francisco. The organization has developed a toolkit to help other communities start their own, similar, projects.
While the project is all kinds of interesting, here’s the phrase that jumped out at me when I read it Friday: Radical Hospitality™.
Lava Mae’s material describes Radical Hospitality™ as “delivering an unexpected level of care.” In addition, Lava Mae says, “Radical Hospitality™ starts with how we treat and value ourselves and team members.”
My comprehensive look at mobile toilets and showers around the world as well as why they matter will have to wait. In the meantime, to honor my commitment to Five Minute Friday, here is my five-minute free write on the topic.
Five Minutes on Radical Hospitality™
Two of my friends and I volunteer once a month at a local mission, helping prepare and serve dinner then cleaning up afterward.
I read the article about Radical Hospitality™ Friday, right after volunteering at Grace Mission Thursday night. I thought about the way my two friends model respect and compassion for every person who comes through the line.
I thought about my reflexive reaction when I had parked at the mission and one of the people who eats at the mission started talking to me. He wanted to explain that the headlight of my car would be less cloudy if I used toothpaste to clean it with. I thanked him and moved on, but I’ll admit I had been fighting internally against other, less thankful instincts. Did he mean me harm? Was I going to be able to get into the workspace safely?
It reminded me of the dilemma I always feel dealing with homeless people in New York City (and that I especially felt when I lived there). My strategy was basically to ignore them (and try to make up for it by doing my fair share of volunteer work). It didn’t get any easier to cope with when I would take my young daughter for a visit to the city. “Just don’t look at them.” “Just say no.” I have never been able to reconcile the way I navigated the city with the countless needs these people had.
One of the participants at Grace Mission asked for my arm Thursday night and put this sticker there. Perhaps sometimes the best teachers about Radical Hospitality™ are those being served.
Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)