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Let me start with a recent teaching moment.

One night while in the 145th Street Pathmark i went to use the men’s room, which was a bit crowded by some young brothers hanging-out.

On entering i “kinda squeezed and ‘scused” my way to a sink. Then in a like manner i made my way to a stall and peed. “You wash your hands first?” loudly queried a teen in a tone that conveyed curiosity.

Quickly i quipped, “You gonna touch yourself wit’ dirty hands? I wash my hands before and after using the toilet.” He went, “Hmm,” and then he acknowledged learning something. More easily revisiting the sink, i thanked him for asking.

Reflecting afterwards, i was indeed thankful that he asked. It brought me back to my days doing health education. I had fun taunting folks about touching their private parts “with your dirty, nasty, filthy, funky-ass hands that you’ve been touching everything else with, including other hands that were not washed after using the restroom!”

And, people very often eat with unwashed hands.

We live in a time when just about every leading cause of harm and death is preventable, and We usually know what We should do to be safer.

But We value so many other things over Our own well-being, and that of others including those We call loved-ones. Convenience, enjoyment, image, and various urges form a partial list of things We often put before what’s good for Us.

Not only will We fritter away time and resources on things We don’t need, but We often do so for things We need-to-not-have. And We are already intellectually clear about being better off without many of these things. Self-destructive habits are major examples. It often seems like We just can’t help “Ourself” [collective-self].

However, We can!

Practice is key in becoming more self-protective. Beating people over the head with prevention messages means little if they’re not very inclined toward well-being. That’s not the conditioning We commonly get in this society. In reconditioning, a simple place to start is hand washing.

Be clear. I’m not saying you’re going to die from not washing your hands before using the toilet or urinal. And you’ll likely survive eating a sandwich with dirty hands. But washing them first builds a practice of putting well-being before other things.

[note: in promoting a more communal outlook, there is a growing practice of capitalizing each first-person plural pronoun, with “i” in lowercase except at the start of a sentence.]

Baba Brother-D Nubyahn


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