World Toilet Day was November 19. Marianna Tubman tells us why this matters all year ’round:
Since I was quite young I have been aware of the importance of public toilets and readily available facilities at work and at home. When I spent 6 months in Mexico, I saw how hard it was for people, especially women, not to have access to a toilet in the city and in the countryside. It was tough for me, too, because I had irritable bowel syndrome and sometimes had to go in a hurry. But in recent years I’ve come to take my home toilet and restroom at work for granted.
Then I heard about the World Toilet Organization and learned that more than 2.5 billion people around the world don’t have access to any toilet – not even an outhouse or latrine! They have to hide behind a bush or go in public. They are more likely to get sick and even die from diseases carried in human waste.
When I saw pictures of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, I realized that there would be thousands of people homeless . . . and huge sanitation problems. I was excited to learn about S.O.I.L., an innovative non-profit in Haiti building toilets that collect waste and create compost, helping people grow vegetables and trees, providing health and dignity for thousands of people still living in tents.
I try to find time to meditate and practice mindfulness in my daily life. I thought, why not spend an hour or a day meditating in the bathroom or even sitting on the toilet? That might not be practical, but how about making it a daily practice to be mindful each time I use the bathroom? I have committed to donating 10 cents to 25 cents to S.O.I.L. for each time I use my home toilet during the month before World Toilet Day. I made a “jar” from a toilet paper roll and hung a bag of beans to drop in the jar each time I use the toilet. I got help writing a Toilet Gratitude Meditation and posted it next to the commode. On November 19 I plan to do an hour-long meditation sitting on the toilet, or perhaps on the floor below on a cushion. I will reflect on our common humanity and give thanks for our private toilets with wash basins and even plumbing to take the smell away.
On World Toilet Day, and for the rest of this month, won’t you join this movement? Put a coin jar in your bathroom and ask everyone to put a coin or a counter (such as a bean) in every time they use the toilet. Then when you have a little more time (or find yourself needing to spend a lot of time on the toilet) why not have a gratitude prayer session on the toilet? Get someone to sponsor a “sit-a-thon” in the toilet, or ask your housemates to pay for the privilege of interrupting you!
Check out the Facebook page I developed (www.facebook.com/sitforSOIL) for a picture to wrap around your coin jar, photos of my coin jar, and a sample of how you could use stones as counters, and a meditation script to hang on the wall or keep near your toilet. For more information, check out the World Toilet Day Facebook page. You can “like” the page and post a picture of your toilet or write what you are thankful for, or tell a memorable story about sanitation or toilets.
For Marianna’s Toilet Gratitude script, click here. For more information on sanitation and toilets, check out the World Toilet Organization, the World Toilet Day Facebook page, or Rose George’s book, “The Big Necessity.”
Haiti was hit by 3 days of rain from Hurricane Sandy and there are still hundreds of thousands of people living in tents and other “temporary” shelters since the 2010 earthquake. Help S.O.I.L. keep their tent-camp toilets and wash stations open and develop other initiatives. Make a pledge to this page: http://www.razoo.com/story/World-Toilet-Day-Gratitude-Meditation-Sit-A-Thon/ or donate directly to www.oursoil.org. The need is urgent.