Like Walking Through Water Without Getting Wet, Part 3: Keep Your Feet Dry

"Whatever you do, keep your feet DRY!"

I've never served in the army but apparently, keeping your feet dry is is the first thing newcomers are warned about from the very beginning.

To the uninitiated it seems a silly thing: There is all this mission-critical stuff going on all around, you may even be in the middle of a war. And yet it's being incessantly drilled into you that if you don't keep your feet dry, there will be hell to pay. You must take care of your feet at all costs.


Peacebuilders: Wet Feet = Trench Rot!

Self-care in peacebuilding is the way we keep our feet dry.

Maybe with some coaching and accountability, maybe just on your own, but the fact is that if you don't keep your feet dry -- if you don't go to the effort of caring for your mind, body, soul, spirit and heart, applying the necessary time and resources to keep them resilient -- you're going to regret it.

Trench Rot. Scary.

Trench Rot. Scary.

Because it's going to cost you at lot more in the end, like it or not. The relatively unimportant discomfort of cold feet will then grow into jungle rot or trench rot...and then you've got a real health hazard on your hands. Then you've placed not only yourself but your whole team in harm's way by not doing the most primary and basic of things: keeping your feet dry.

You must take the time for something so basic as keeping your feet dry.

Even in the midst of battles. Even in the middle of a war.

An image comes to my mind of soldiers wading through chest-high swamps, weapons raised above their heads to keep them out of the water.

This image tells me a couple things:

First: It tells me there are times when some of the other tools related to our mission may briefly take precedence over our own feet. Prioritizing your gear at the moment you're wading through chest-high water is more critical than keeping your body or clothing dry.

But this is critical to remember: No war can ever be fought being stuck in chest-high water. It's a short phase. You need to get through that water as soon as possible, and then the first thing when you're on the other side is to dry your feet and change your socks and boots.

Using the excuse that your feet are always wet because you're always wading through high water isn't valid, sorry. High waters, often unforeseen, must be treated as being temporal. And if they're not temporal, you've got a bigger problem than just keeping your feet dry.

If you're always chest-high in swamp water with no way out, you can't win that war, whether your legs are dry as a bone or your feet are rotting off your legs.

Second: This image of wading through high water tells me that it's not possible to never get your feet wet. Your feet will get wet, in fact I'm sure they get wet all the time. The work of peacebuilding that is done in the jungles and trenches of the world's communities means you'll definitely get wet feet, regularly. It will be a constant issue.

The question is, How quickly do you dry your feet and change your socks afterward?

A 3rd important issue: How much time do your superiors give you and your team to do so? Are you expected to jump out of the water and continue running indefinitely, hopping on one leg while you try to change your socks and shoes while still advancing?

Are they expecting the impossible from you?

And do you expect it of yourself?


Does Your Unit Value Your Dry Feet Like They Should?

You should always have plenty of supplies in your pack -- at the very least some dry socks and a change of boots. Get them out and do what's necessary. If you don't have enough supplies, ask for them. Insist on them. The response to your self-care requests will be a good indication of how much your role in that unit is valued.

If you are provided the supplies but you aren't given the time needed to implement the actual care for your feet, you may want to consider whether or not this is the kind of team you can work in. You believe in your mission. Of course you do, or else you wouldn't be here. But at what cost? Are you willing to remain in a position of constant vulnerability where your well-being is being sacrificed for the mission?

These are hard questions that any peacebuilder must be ready to answer. All true humanitarians and peacebuilders deal with this at one point or another.

How much are you willing to take? What sacrifices are you willing to make in good conscience?

And more importantly: To what end?

If dry feet weren't so important, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be a priority in the army where there are a thousand other pressing issues in a conflict zone. But it's the same in your own life and in your own peacebuilding context when it comes to your own resilience and health, isn't it?


Find the Tools & Supplies You Need

There's a reason why keeping your feet dry is so utterly important. So listen up, pay attention and then do it. There are good tools and supplies available for helping keep you resilient. If you don't have them, find them. Get them at whatever cost. Your life and that of your team may depend on it. 

And if you're not allowed to for whatever reason, ask yourself the difficult questions above. See what you come up with.

Please hear me when I say that no price paid in the present will have been too much for future health and wellness leading to long-term resilience.

Besides, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, whether your supervisor realizes it or not.

Trust me on this one.