Somewhere, a mother of small children is enduring the stomach flu without access to a washing machine. Maybe without access to a shower.
“Somewhere” is probably closer than I think. Definitely in the US, almost certainly in Indiana, quite likely in South Bend … just across the river from me? Or maybe over on the west side?
Recently I read Kathryn Edin’s $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. (There’s a great review of the book here.) She tells the story of the cashless poor – the households who fall under the standard of two dollars per person per day of cash income. Many of these households, although they may have housing, food stamps, or other benefits, have exactly zero cash income. Edin details what that looks like, and it’s a sad picture. It wasn’t shocking or unfamiliar to me: having worked with homeless families for a number of years, I was in contact with the demographic Edin was describing. But I was single when I worked at the homeless shelter, and now I am a mother with kids, and through that lens everything looks a little different.
Specifically, around the time I was reading this book, I was a mother with a sick baby. Most of our family came down with a stomach bug, and the poor 4-month-old got it too. She spent one whole day throwing up (on herself, and me, and the floor) after every nursing session. I bathed her four or five times, changed her clothes even more frequently, and changed my own clothes three or four times as well. At the end of the day I had a huge pile of laundry.
If I had no cash … things would have looked very different.
If I had no cash, I might not have running water in my house.
I wouldn’t be able to bathe the baby five times or take a shower when I was covered in her spit-up.
I wouldn’t be able to wash all that laundry that we accumulated through the day.
In fact, I might not even have been able to change her clothes; with no cash, maybe I wouldn’t have had all those 3-6 month-size baby clothes available.
I don’t know what the answer is for the cashless poor, and I don’t intend to have that conversation here. I just wanted to share this with you so that you would know about these families too.
Let’s be grateful for our laundry, and let’s remember and pray for those who can’t wash theirs.