Cleanliness is one of the good qualities of a civilized man. It is part of our civilization. A man of dirty habits is far from being civilized. So, with the advancement of civilization, man learns to clean himself more often. He cleans his body, his mind and heart, his actions and manners. These will lead him to the highest form of civilization.
Cleanliness means different things to different people. For instance, when a little boy is told by his mother to wash his hands and face, he may think that holding his fingers under a running faucet and wetting his lips is enough, but mother knows better. She takes him back into the bathroom and scrubs his hands and face with plenty of soap and water-despite his loud protests!
Of course, standards of cleanliness are not the same around the world, and people grow up with varying concepts of cleanliness. In time past, a clean and well-ordered school environment in many countries helped students develop good habits of cleanliness. Today, some school grounds are so full of litter and debris that they share the resemblance of a garbage dump more than a place of learning and exercise. And what about the classrooms?
Peter, one of my friends was amazed at how accurate his predictions turned out to be when we visited a school last week. “Filth in the classroom!” he exclaimed. Some students take the instruction ‘pick it up’ or ‘clean it up’ to mean punishment. The problem is that some teachers do use cleaning as a means of punishment. Cleaning should be part of the make-up of every child and not to be used only as a punitive measure to children.
On the other hand, adults are not always good examples of cleanliness, either in everyday life or in the business-world. For example, many public places are left messy and unsightly. Some industries even pollute the environment. Pollution however is caused not by faceless industries and businesses, but by people. While greed is probably the main cause of the global problem of pollution and its many ill effects, part of the problem is the result of unclean personal habits. A former director general of the Commonwealth supported this conclusion when he said ‘’All questions of public health reduce themselves to a consideration of the one man, one woman, one child.’’
Still, some feel that cleanliness is a personal matter and should be of no concern to anyone else. Is that really so?
The importance of cleanliness cannot be overemphasized when it comes to our food, whether we buy it at a market, eat it at a restaurant, or have a meal at a friend’s home. A high standard of cleanliness is expected of those handling or serving the food we eat. Dirty hands-theirs or ours –can be the cause of many ailments. What about hospitals of all places, the place where we expect to find the best of cleanliness?
It is also a very serious matter when someone deliberately or thoughtlessly pollutes our water supplies. And how safe is it to stroll barefoot along a beach where one may see used syringes left behind by drug addicts or other sharp objects carelessly dropped? Perhaps of even greater personal importance is the question: is cleanliness practiced in our own home?
Sullen Hoy, in her book Chasing Dirt, asks: ‘’Are we as clean as we used to be?’’ She answers: ‘’probably not”. She cites shifting social values as the main reason.
As people spend less and less time at home, they simply pay someone else to do the cleaning for them. Consequently, maintaining a clean environment is no longer a matter of personal importance. ‘’I don’t clean the shower, I clean myself” said one of my colleagues. ‘’At least, if my house is dirty, I’m clean’’
Cleanliness is much more than outward appearance. It is an all-embracing ethic of sound living. It is also a state of the mind and the heart that involves our morals and worship, constantly staging an interesting repositioning of man to be at par with civilization.