The year before I started Kindergarten, my parents and I moved from an apartment in the upstairs of my Gramma’s farm house to a small house in the neighboring town. Moving to the bustling town of around 2,000 people seemed like a major adventure, and my aunts and uncles and cousins were quick to point out aspects of our “city living” which we would have to get used to. As a gullible child, one of everyone’s favorite things to tease me about was how we would get water.
On the farm, water came from a well. I grew up drinking well water tasting of minerals and sulphur. Water had to be conserved with the seasons, especially if we were having a dry spell. We conserved water by monitoring the amount of “flushing” allowed in any day, by never leaving a faucet running, and by bottling our drinking water to avoid running the tap. The cows needed water to drink, and the fields and gardens needed it, too. But, we had the water nature provided and we didn’t waste it.
In town, just up the hill from our house, there was a water tower. It wasn’t one of the cool, spidery ones on stilts. It was a squatty, silver water tower painted with our town name and logo. This holding tank and the water works (conveniently located on the neighboring Water Street) filtered and circulated water to the town. Maybe now we take this utility for granted. But, to me it was fascinating. I wondered how the water got from tanks to the filtering system, to our faucets. I must have looked like I was wondering, because my family picked up on it.
It was probably my Aunt Joyce who was the first one to cajole me: “you’re going to get awfully tired running up the hill to get water from that tower.” I started to protest, but I was secretly worried. What if she was right? What if I had to scramble for water? What if we ran out? How did the water get in the tower, anyhow? I would get defiant, put my hands on my preschool hips and announce there was no need to visit the water tower; our town would keep us supplied. In my family, protest is a sure way to insure continuity of a good ribbing, so teasing about my water tower runs became a family tradition. I would seethe until smoke came out of my ears. I think it continued through high school…
Both my “daily water” memories remind me, though, that it can be easy for us to take our water supply for granted. Would we care so much about the perfect moisture saturation of our lawns if we had to carry water by the buckets? Would we leave our showers running while we putter around if we had to fill a big tank with how much we had to use? We have hydration bottles in every shape, color, and size. But, how lasting is our water source?It is easy…too easy…to take the precious supply of water we have on this earth for granted.
I drink a lot of water, usually direct from the tap. I don’t stop to think about it much, but today I reflected on what it would be like if every sip was connected to a journey: to a well like the Samaritan woman of the Gospel story, or to a clean water tap as happens still during our own lifetimes in some countries. Like our breath, we can almost become oblivious to how precious it is.
Maybe Aunt Joyce was on to something: making the climb to the water tower could have been a pilgrimage. I don’t think it would have felt that way, though. We are not accustomed to working hard for our basic essentials. It is good to give thanks and take notice of what we could too easily take for granted. Maybe today we can pray, “give us this day, our daily water…” just as a reminder of the precious gift and essential substance that water really is.
Our daily water is also living water.