It is my word of choice whenever I am getting overwhelmed by the clutter in our house, when I am frustrated by the cracks in the sink where mildew breeds or the gap in the back door through which creepy-crawlies enter, or in those fleeting moments when I think my mom might be right and I need to clean more.
But I'm always aware (or at least I try to be) how good I have it compared to the conditions in which many people live, both around the world and even in America.
And thanks to the Compassion Bloggers who were recently in Kenya, I feel like I have now seen real squalor, and I want to never again make light of those impoverished conditions by likening my palatial abode to the homes of mud and tin lining streets of sewage in places like the Mathare Valley--a slum near Nairobi.
I cannot imagine this being my neighborhood. As one blogger on the trip said "There wasn't just sewage in the streets. The streets were sewage." Kristen Welch (with whose permission I use these photos) described it as a hell hole--dark and oppressive, dangerous, sick, rank, the unliveable "home" of countless orphans, plagued with horrific violence, drug use, exploitation, and alcoholism. Read her full post from that day here. I may complain of a little dirt in my home. These homes are made of dirt. The teenage boy who lives in this home (about the size of a walk-in closet) has been an orphan for ten years. He cares for his younger brother, walks an hour and a half to school, and does his homework by the light of a kerosene lamp. The Compassion project in this slum gave him a job and is helping him to have a better future. Kristen described the project as a haven of safety and hope amidst these horrid conditions. It was amazing to follow Kristen's journey in Kenya and see how child sponsorship through organizations like Compassion and WorldVision really does make a difference in these children's lives. Only $38 a month can give these kids life, health, education, and hope.
I try not to take what I have for granted. Envy is a real temptation for me as I see people (often via the blog-world) with bigger homes than me, nicer furniture and decor, or at least homes they have chosen for themselves. I battle that temptation and desperately need reminding that, though no virtue of my own, I was born into a life where I've always had more than enough. Through no fault of their own, billions were born into lives of poverty.
I don't know what real squalor is.
But I know my home is not it.
(I hope my mom remembers that next time she visits. )