There are national holidays and observances for every conceivable notion. Grandparents day, Ultrasound Day, and Groundhog Day for goodness sakes! Then we have Children’s Day – really? Yes! Because some children are not celebrated in this world. You will have to look hard to find it in the United States, but it is much more visible beyond our borders.

And as I looked, I found Global Handwashing Day. It’s the first thing I shout out to my boys before they reach into the bag of whatever is on the counter, “Did you wash your hands?” It’s one of the first things I taught my youngest to do, using soap. It’s one of the things I think they probably don’t use (soap) as is evidenced on the white hand towels in the guest bath.

It’s also one of the things Community Health Evangelists (CHE) teach children and even adults. The importance of one of the simplest acts of our day, yet taken for granted. Doesn’t everyone know to wash hands – before eating, after visiting the restroom, privy, or WC? When you’re sick? After a hard days work?

Yet, this is what I heard and saw. CHE workers teaching children in an orange grove near the Thai/Burmese border to wash their hands, explaining why they should, teaching the method, encouraging, even coaxing.


Remembering that time, I thought, “Surely they know this. Did he (CHE trainer) really just say and demonstrate how to do this?” He did, and all the children dutifully repeated, wringing their hands, pretending to be wiping soap and water all over dirty little fingers, covered with the play and work of their day.

It’s the first picture that came to mind when I saw October 15 is Global Handwashing Day. A year ago, I would have thought Global Handwashing Day absurd. What a difference a year makes. My perspective completely changed as I watched the much too young being taught by near strangers, the simplest of sanitizing acts. Parents away at work in the fields, children wanting to please. I prayed they understood.

There are those who don’t know. How will they know unless someone tells them? This is biblical and refers to the telling of Christ’s love for the world. Yet it applies to all things beneficial, not just eternal.

First teach them to wash hands.