Our sinks need to see a little more love

It is a pretty surreal experience writing a farming column in the middle of a pandemic. Before I begin this lesson from the farm, I want to share my perspective.

First, we need to take this seriously, but not panic. Social isolation is not about saving the young, teens or even younger adults.

It’s about saving people like my 89-year-old grandmother who remembers her mother telling her about how many dead there were during the Spanish Flu of 1918.

It is about saving my friends who are battling cancer, have asthma or any other illness that predisposes them to germs.

Secondly, stop hoarding. The American farmer, along with others, like factory workers and garbage men, are still at work producing and taking care of goods for you to use and consume. So let’s share our resources.

That being said, check on your elderly neighbors. Ask if you can run errands for them, make them dinner and drop it off, grab their medications for them, even their mail and for good grief’s sake, stop hoarding the toilet paper!

(If you want to be proactive, recycle your paper goods, since that helps to make more toilet paper.)

I think that Mr. Rogers summed it up perfectly when he said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

I urge you to be one of the helpers, and if you can’t be a helper, then please don’t hinder people. Those are my words of advice.

Now I would like to go on to my story.

So as I was thinking about what I wanted to write for this week, the thing that kept hitting me over and over again was the concept of washing my hands. See, it had not really struck me how far away we have moved from the wash-your-hands-after-everything concept until I started to think about.

In my view, people have gotten way too complacent about hand washing, myself included.

I still wash my hands before and after all the important things, like using the restroom, eating lunch, putting in my contacts, cooking, etc., but there are times when I slack. I don’t always wash my hands after going outside; I don’t always wash my hands after shopping; and there are a host of other activities where I probably fail to wash my hands.

After I stopped to think about that, I thought about why.

In my mind, I had grown more lax because, well, antibiotics. I mean, if I got sick, we could fix it pretty easily (at least in my head).

With this new virus, that just is not the case. So I started thinking back to my hand-washing heyday.

My grandpa’s rule when we were really young was that we had to sing a funny ditty while washing our hands. We used this old, rough bar of soap that would remove anything from dirt to grease and even the first layer of skin. Grandpa would soap up my hands and let me rub them together, and then he would soap up his. He would start humming and I would immediately put in words or sometimes he would lead and I would chime in.

This happened for years and eventually, my brother joined in the makeshift band. There was absolutely no excuse for entering the house without washing your hands. Woe to the kid who tried to enter the house without hand washing; Grandma would immediately ask if the offending hands had been washed and if you said no, you were immediately sent down to the basement to wash.

As a little kid, I often wondered what that sink had seen. It was such an integral part of my grandparents’ house. I know it had washed the blood from human cuts and dog paws; it had removed the grease from tired, aching hands; a few times it washed away my tears when a beloved animal had died; and I know it felt the love from all those songs we sang as we washed our hands.

However, it is not just my grandparents’ sink that needs a little more love shown to it. This virus is showing us that everyone’s sink needs to see a little more love. Grandpa was rarely sick in his 91 1/2 years of life, and I often wondered why. I think between the hard work, fresh air and home-cooked food, hand washing played a crucial role in his avoidance of germs and viruses.

To clarify one thing, Grandpa was not a germaphobe. However, Grandpa had one firm rule — cover your hands in all the germs, but make sure you washed them good before you went into the house.

I think at this time, we could all use the wisdom from my grandpa. And just maybe, if we are all really lucky, this time spent distancing ourselves from others will allow us to get back to the things that really make memories, like singing funny little songs with those we love while washing our hands by the sink.

Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and completed her doctorate at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.


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