Today I took a bath for the first time in four months. Not a single tile, door or pieceof furniture stood in my unfinished home. The echoes of the running water playedscales up my spine. Drip, drip, drip, drip. This was the first time I ever feltfortunate to have a bath. A burden fell upon my family when my sister failed toturn off the curling iron and my house went up in flames. The fire refused tostop until it had gobbled up almost everything. I lost much, but I learned evenmore.
Without a place to call home and warm weather coming, my parentsmade the decision to camp-out for the summer as our house was rebuilt. With ninepeople and three campers littering the backyard, there wasn't a doubt in my mindthat this would take patience and understanding. We lost our cozy beds, ourtelevision, our refrigerator. We resorted to using camper cots, a melted radioand coolers. The showers were often cold, but not nearly as cold as some of thenights. Crammed together, my family survived in isolated pools of pity. Animositypoisoned our air. I began to forget how convenient air conditioning andhome-cooked meals were. Our debt increased as we repurchased our lostpossessions. Flashlights (not candles, due to our newborn fear of fire) wereessential, and bug spray became the new family fragrance. However, I discoveredthat I wasn't alone in my suffering.
Needing points for National HonorSociety, I agreed to go with my friend to a church to do volunteer work. In amuggy room we fed surplus food to families who had little. While pouring drinks,I listened to each family's story. The children were beyond hungry, and thescoops of instant mashed potatoes and slices of pork would be their first meal ofthe day. The lingering smell of mothballs convinced me that moths had not createdthe tiny but numerous holes in their clothes. The children nervously gnawed attheir dirty fingernails. The parents avoided eye contact. The chatter was minimaland the deafening silence made my stomach churn. I left my sorrow behind andbrought home a stomach full of guilt. I spent the rest of that day trying tosalvage some of our belongings by scrubbing away the soot and stains.
After a dreary day's work, I filled the tub with nearly scalding water. Iinched each toe in to get used to the temperature. It had been so long. It was asif time had paused. It was impossible for me to remember the last time Iappreciated a simple tub of hot water. Never once did I think how privileged Iwas to have a home, a family and life.
Tears stained my cheeks. In mybackyard, I felt so close to home, yet so faraway. I sulked and soaked for whatseemed like ages. I peered into the water in search of my reflection. The cloudysubstance smothered my floating image. My mind yelled, Why me, why me? Myconscience responded, Why them, why anyone? That day I had met so many who wouldgive their right arm to live my life, and all I could think about was my owninsignificant troubles. Soon enough my agony would end and I would be living inmy home again. Unfortunately, this isn't true for everyone.
Childrenstarve, homes are bombed, guns are fired, and poverty ruins many lives. Mostadolescents fortunate enough to have food, family and a home don't realize thatthese are gifts from God. Life is a gift that we often take for granted. Losingso much forced me to look at life from a new angle.
The day tragedy madeits unwanted visit to burn down my home, I realized my empty house is better thannone, my distraught family is better than no family, and my life is better thanso many others who have far less. It's ironic how such a tragedy (and a bath)taught me the greatest life lesson of all.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.