Raising Your Freak-Out Threshold
9/2/2006 12:00:01 AM by: Charlotte S. Snead

This summer Joe and I went to El Salvador with the teens from our church. The only thing that keeps me younger than being a mentor mom is being a chaperone on a youth mission trip! Joe particularly caught on to the expression “freak-out,” and has repeatedly said that the trip raised his “freak-out threshold.”

If you have never left the good old USA, or only traveled to secluded resorts that keep you away from the poverty-stricken areas of other countries, you can continue to be Charmin-dependent and oblivious to the blessings of our country and its privileged life-style.

Some of you may be on WIC or food stamps, and if you qualify, you should be, but in the United States what we call “poverty level” is not poor by the world’s standards. We walked down a ravine to the river, watched the women wash their clothes, the kids bathe, and how they then haul that same water in containers on their heads and climb back up the mountainside to serve that filthy water to their children.

We worked on a water project.  An amazing little church of sixty people is spearheading a project that will bring water to over 15,000 people! They have prodded the government officials, shamed the water company, and invigorated the community to build four water tanks to gravity-feed water to homes in three communities. As an aside, on the way home, the steward on the plane, a full-grown adult, was shamelessly flirting with our beautiful little girls, 14, 15 years old. In the course of the conversation as we shared what we were doing, he expressed amazement that four communities within 45 minutes of San Salvador, the capitol, did not have running water. We left our comfortable lives, flew to Central America and dug for five days to help his fellow-countrymen have safe, potable water, and he was oblivious to the needs in his back door.

For four days, we lived in a cinderblock building with partitions, men on one side, women on the other. Because the teen girls’ freak-out threshold for bugs was really low, they pushed all the beds into the center of the room—away from walls where bugs might be crawling—so we slept like kitties in a litter. Being a loner who protects her privacy, my freak-out threshold was maxed out! The most fun part was we did have one flush toilet, but it was in the men’s section, and the bathroom door wouldn’t close. It is really hard to release pee in the middle of the men’s bedroom. Fortunately, they were sound sleepers—at least that is what they said. We had to hike down the mountainside to find more privacy for our big jobs in the school latrines. (One of our teens asked her mother before the trip: “just what are latrines, anyway?” Boy, did she find out!) One boy went to sit and a bat flew out—eew, talk about freaking out!

Talking about our experiences coming home, we alternatively laughed and cried, amazed at how normal a very primitive lifestyle is for our new friends, those precious people at the Church of the Good Samaritan. We ate in the open-air dining room/kitchen at Pastor Miguel’s house while the rain pattered on the tin roof above our heads. The chickens scratched in the yard beside us, and one of our guys took a picture of the goose. . . from the table. . . as we were eating. The girls learned how to make tortillas over an open fire in the kitchen, which is all they have for their cooking.

Joe declared that his “freak-out threshold” would certainly be elevated—and we certainly have nothing to complain about in this country. Things that used “freak him out” are nothings in comparison. When we were wandering around Clarksburg in the dark of the night trying to find a friend’s house and SHE WOULD NOT ANSWER HER PHONE, his threshold was not crossed, and believe me it would have been before our trip. Our brethren south of our borders have a lovely expression we need to make part of our vocabulary: “no problema!”

Climbing to the top of the mountain where the tank site was located, the locals laughed and joked—even when carrying concrete fence posts. They smile all the time, making us embarrassed to whine about our petty inconveniences. Hey, as moms we have no life—no problema, they will grow up one day. Maybe we don’t have that new dining room suite, no problema, at least we are not eating on a Formica table with chickens a few feet away. Maybe you haven’t had a day off in weeks—no problema, at least you are not carrying foul water on your head for your babies to drink.

Here at MOPS we hope you’ll get some sense of relativity, a respite to restore our perspectives and raise our freak-out thresholds. Let’s have a really great year, we can laugh together, and cry together, and put some balance in our lives.


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