It happens. I’m guilty of it often enough. The stomach flu hits three kids in one day and I start to mistrust everything I know about the effectiveness of natural cleaners and the dangers of conventional ones. Out of desperation to get this horrible bug out of my house, I reach for the 409. Or it may be simpler than that. I might just be suckered by the beauty of that clear blue Windex, or the lemony scent of Pledge. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much commercial TV, seeing too many miraculous Before and After shots of soap scum cleared in a single effortless swipe. Perhaps I’ve heard just one too many, “You clean your house with what!?”
In the midst of a crisis or moments of weakness, the questions come pouring in:
Am I putting my kids at risk by not using the stuff that good looking people say is so good? If it were really bad for us, would the government allow it to be sold? What good is this natural stuff doing? What good is my little squirt bottle with my homemade solution when there are still paper mills and oil spills? How am I making any difference?
Have you heard the story about the boy and the starfish?
One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said…”I made a difference for that one.”
The point is, it all does matter. It all does help. Soaps and vinegar and baking soda and all that really do work. And, no, the government does not know everything that is going on. In my house, it’s mostly up to me to know what’s what. So, whatever I can do, big or small, to make my house safer for my husband, my kids, and myself – that matters. Even if it doesn’t help anyone else. But then, it probably does help someone else. I might inspire you, who might inspire 10 other people, and thus it starts.
So if you fall off this green machine, pick a quotation and climb back on. I’m a sucker for a well-turned phrase, so here are a few that could make a good natural housecleaning mantra:
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do. ~ Edward Everett Hale
It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little. ~Sydney Smith
And lastly, One man’s hands can’t… but if two and two and fifty make a million, we’ll see that day come round. Not exactly what Mr. Seeger was talking about, but I think he’d agree.