Monday, December 19, 2016

Living Water

We take so much for granted, perhaps nothing quite so much as water.

It's right there, whenever we need it.  Want a drink?  Just head to your kitchen, and there it is.  Clean, potable, safe drinking water.  Oh, maybe we want to filter it, because we don't like something about the flavor.  Maybe we worry, if we're a regular reader of InfoWars or a character in Dr. Strangelove, that fluoride might be a communist plot to contaminate our precious bodily fluids.

But the truth is that we have all the water we need, whenever we need it, and gathering that water is so simple that it is almost an afterthought.  Of course it's there.  Of course.

For so many in the world today, that is not their experience of reality.  Getting water consumes a substantial part of the energy of a day, often in ways that are remarkably time consuming and physically demanding.  Think, for just a moment, what you would need to do to get water if the taps stopped flowing.   What would you need to do, if you couldn't just run to the store and buy it?  Couldn't load up your trunk or truck-bed with it?

I know, for my little house in Annandale, what that would entail.  There's a stream that runs at the foot of the valley where my suburban home is located, a stream that meanders along in the green Annandale valley of Sleepy Hollow.  It's about a half-mile from the house, all downhill.   There are small catfish in that stream, and the occasional crawdad.   It flows with mostly clear water, mixed in with some of the debris generated by a typical American neighborhood.  A soda can here.  A fast food wrapper there.  A couple of plastic bags undulating in the flow.

That's the closest source.  It'd be a half-mile there.  Then, you'd have to fill a container.  One gallon of water, if we'll recall, weighs eight and a half pounds.  I'd then need to figure out how much I needed per day.  The average American household?  To slake our oversized thirst, we use 400 gallons a day.  3,400 pounds of water, which at 50 pounds carried each trip, would mean 68 trips up and down that hill.  Even if we used half, or a quarter of that amount, living a saner and less wasteful life, it would still be more than we could manage.

Clearly, things would need to change, and get harder.  Life as we have come to know it would no longer be possible.

At the front of the sanctuary of our little congregation, there's a glass container, partially filled with water.  It's a reminder, week by week, of how our community is striving to provide clean and accessible water to a community as we partner with a nonprofit that will use our resources to dig a well for those who lack our wealth.

But it's also a reminder of how much we rely on one another, of how deeply we come to take our lives for granted.