Monday, November 3, 2008

The lesson from the ink pad

My son was covered in blue ink when I picked him up from school today. He looked like he'd just auditioned for the Blue Man Group. His teacher expressed regrets that they didn't realize they were doing stamp art with permanent ink until Caden was coated in the stuff. Great, thanks. As I drive home, Caden waves at passing cars as always. I shrink in my seat assuming that the other drivers are labeling me a bad mom because of my child's cerulean condition. As soon as we get in the door of the house, I strip him down and start scrubbing. Nothing works. He is still blue and now a little raw. I groan at the thought of taking him to the hospital tomorrow for his rehab swallow study looking like Papa Smurf.

Because tomorrow is election day, my mind travels back to my trip to Nepal a few years back which coincided with their national election. I spent a month there with 3 weeks trekking the Himalayas, eventually climbing Kala Patar over Mount Everest's base camp. I traveled to and from Kathmandu alone but was met at the airport by a Sherpa I'd hired over the internet (ah, the naivete of youth). On my first day in the country, I wanted to kick the massive jet lag by staying up all day. Sherpa Raj wanted to get the permits and supplies ready for our mountain trip but first I needed lunch. He sat beside me sipping tea while I sampled my first dish of dal bhat (rice and lentils, soon to become my staple meal). Then I spotted his thumb.

"What happened?" I asked, hoping I wasn't being rude in doing so but I was genuinely concerned. It was black, like he'd taken a hammer to it.

"I voted," Raj replied nonchalantly.

"Uh, okay," I was confused but he offered nothing more. I hoped his meaning was lost in the translation and that the voting process didn't involve a hammer to the thumb. "Did you get your hand stuck in the voting machine or something?"

"No, we put our thumbs in ink before we vote." I was still confused but he explained that they use the thumbprint to prove that each person only votes once and is the actual person they claim to be. Once you get through that identification process, you go on to mark your ballot. The permanent ink remains for a few days afterwards, hence the state of his thumb. I started to like the idea. You could also see who had not yet voted and encourage them to do so. He said it makes the voting procedure a long one but to people not accustomed to democracy, it was worth their time. The blackened thumb was a source of pride.

Back in the States, it is too easy for me to fall back into routine and take things for granted. I learned so much during that month in Nepal about what is important in life to me and what I really need to be happy. At the time, Nepal was the fifth poorest country in the world and I understood how very fortunate I was to be born in the United States of America, particularly as a woman. I know too how extremely lucky Caden is to have been born in this country. For all its problems, it is still one of the only places in the world that will recognize him as a human being deserving of education, medical care and a life of his own. The majority of the world does not grow up in an environment where "all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..." I look at my inked-up son and remember Raj's thumb on this day before we cast our votes. I will be proud and honored to vote tomorrow and will not take the matter lightly. Caden always has a way of getting his point across. I just wish it wasn't in such a bright blue!

1 comment:

Kristi Mantoni said...

We definitely are lucky to live where we live. Tomorrow is an exciting day to say the least! BTW, I would love to see some blue pictures.