Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reflection: World Water Day 2016

This morning, I woke up after a great night of sleep on my good friend Sam's couch in Sunnyvale. I started my day with my usual morning routine of a time of quiet reflection, reading, and gratitude. Sam made some coffee for me, him, and his wife Truly and I hopped online to start my day. I started sipping water from a bottle that has traveled with me to multiple countries. I thought, "This bottle has kept me hydrated on so many occasions in so many locations, and it carries the logo of the ONE campaign, this really great organization that we have been privileged to partner with at Nuru International. And as I write this short reflection, my mind is running through a mix of gratitude, care and frustration about water.

Today is World Water Day.  It is a day to remember just how much of a gift water is. It is a day to think about ways to reduce the ways it is wasted, and to think of ways to conserve it. It is a day to consider that there are many in our world who do not have access to clean water.

Water is the universal solvent. Water is powerful--it carved the Grand Canyon and softens the edges of sharp stone. It provides electrical energy to whole communities. It can both give and take life with its power. 70% of our planet is made up of water. 60% of our body is made up of water. We need water to survive, thrive, and live. Each morning in the US, it is easy to take for granted that there will be water coming through the pipes in our homes as we take a shower, brush our teeth, shave, wash our hands, fix our coffee, cook our meals, clean our dishes, and And yet, many people in our world do not have safe, clean, water, coming from a spigot in their house. Many do not even have a spigot.

I remember spending two separate weeks in solitude and fasting in the Mojave Desert as I wrestled with a major life decision. I had to carry everything I needed in a large backpack. It included two large water bladders that comprised about 60 lbs of water. Water would not be accessible for me unless I brought it into the desert with me. Ironically it rained during one of these journeys and this desolate desert became abloom with life as vegetation soaked up the limited hydration offered by the clouds above.

For years, on my tribe's land in western Maryland, we would rely on a local spring to provide water for cleaning dishes and washing hands, a local stream for bathing, and bottled water for drinking because we had no running water.  

Back home in West Virginia, there are whole communities near where my wife grew up who are having water shipped in because their water local water has become contaminated. Two years ago a chemical spill contaminated the water supply around my beloved home state's capital. I remember being in that town to support a dear friend who had lost her father. The water fountains in the funeral home looked like they had not been used in weeks (they hadn't). People were skeptical about drinking coffee at the viewing, and friends and fellow mourners were bringing in cases of bottled water.

Just a couple of days ago, I was walking through the John Muir Woods just north of San Francisco. It was rainy and foggy, and my ears were filled with the sound of water flowing rapidly along Redwood Creek to the Pacific Ocean as a forest full of redwoods drank their fill and continued growing and standing strong as they had for centuries. As the rains fell heavily, I thought not only about this ecosystem, but also about the farms and families who would have a good crop thanks to this rainfall. The area was alive with greenery because of those rains.

And when I think of farmers, I find my thoughts going to our farmers in Ethiopia, and even to communities around the world who suffer from a lack of water. Two weeks ago, I was in the southern highland of Ethiopia. I saw crowds gathering with large buckets and jerrycans in small communities where there had been drought conditions created by El NiƱo weather patterns. People were standing in line for an opportunity to gather water from a source that may have been contaminated. They were not only wanting water to meet their immediate need, but they were also praying for rains to come so they could address hunger in their community and in their country. In fact, as the rains started falling heavily in Zefine, Ethiopia during my visit, the entirety of our Ethiopian staff team began to shout for joy at the gift of the rain, and what it would mean for our farmers.

As I look back across these myriad memories, I'm grateful for the gift of water that I have been able to enjoy and appreciate more deeply, and I'm hope-filled that days like World Water Day might nudge each of us toward a deeper sense of appreciation, and motivate us toward tangible actions that will help others enjoy the gift of clean water. As you go through your day today, each time you take a drink, enjoy food, wash your hands, shower, go to the bathroom, and witness growth around you, will you join me in taking a moment to express gratitude for the gift of water?

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