Friday, July 22, 2011


I put the large glass under the spigot of our water cooler and I pulled the handle. I frequently go to the cooler to get a tall, cold glass of water.

As the water poured out into my glass, one of those big water bubbles popped up inside the big bottle and settled with a loud "plop" on the top. I smiled. It's a fun sound.

I looked at the big bottle and saw that it was almost empty. I would have to go outside and get one of the new bottles that the water man had left for us earlier this week. I always know when the water man has come because the dogs go crazy. I check to see why they are barking and here is this very nice man with a bottle of water on his shoulder, another in his hand, bringing them across the street to my front door.

The 5 gallon bottles are heavy, but they are easier to lift now that they have added handles to the design.

I don't carry the bottle all the way into the kitchen. I lift it up to the floor of the hall and then push it down the hall to the kitchen. Then I lift it up onto the counter, wipe off the dust that has settled on the bottle while sitting outside waiting for me. Then I peel back the label and turn the bottle upside down and stick the bottle on the little spigot that sticks up inside the cooler.

It used to be more difficult to put the water on the cooler, since it involved the possibility of spilling water all over the floor. But they they invented this method which removes any danger of losing water if the bottle slips out of your hands.

I'm really good at changing the water bottle. It's the one physical thing I do that I am good at. I drink so much water that when I began working in offices that had water coolers, I took over keeping the cooler full so that I always had icy cold water to drink.

* * *

It's morning and I'm getting ready for the day. I go into the bathroom and get my fancy electric toothbrush. I turn on the water and put paste on the brush, then I stand there letting the toothbrush brush my teeth for me. At some point I realize how much water has been running freely down the drain and I feel guilty about wasting water, so I turn the faucet off, finish brushing my teeth, then turn the water on again, rinse the toothbrush and put it back. Upstairs, I hear Walt flushing the toilet and the sound of the shower running. I go back to the kitchen and turn on the dishwasher.

* * *

Sheila is out in the back yard licking water out of a bowl that has collected run-off from the sprinkler. The water is brackish. "Yuck," we say. "You don't want to drink that." We empty the bowl onto the grass and refill the bowl with clean water.

* * *

The paperwork for my newest Compassion child, Emanuella, arrived yesterday. I smiled when I read her information. One of her household chores involves carrying water. "They all carry water," I thought to myself.

Well, duhhh...they all do carry water...

There was a diary entry from Compssion yesterday about water. It's entitled "How Far Would you go to fetch safe drinking water?" The writer had recently visited her sponsored child in El Salvador and decided to join the youngest child in the family on her walk to the river to get water.

Little-Girl_Water-Jug.jpg (29312 bytes)The walk from Isabel’s home to the river took about 30 minutes. The view of the river was stunning, and most of the walk was down a very steep slope.

Upon reaching the river, I found a wash house where people gather to bathe. This is also where a pavilion is set up to wash clothes.

We learned that this water, like most water in the developing world, is contaminated and a cause of illness to the families who rely on it.

We filled our five-gallon water jugs from the river and, with each jug now weighing about 40 pounds, began trudging back up the hill to Isabel’s home.

Isabel placed her jug on her head and slowly but steadily walked up the steep path. The men in our sponsor group slung their jugs to their shoulders, while the women worked in pairs to lug the heavy jugs up the hill (which, with each step, seemed more like a mountain).

Finally, one of the women in our group tried carrying her water jug on her head. As I struggled up the hill, it seemed insane to place such a heavy jug on my head – especially without a pad like the local women use. But after my friend found this method easier, I decided to follow her example. Indeed, the jug was hard and heavy, but this was definitely easier than anything else I had tried.

I was able to slowly, steadily, step-by-step, make it the rest of the way to the top of the hill. When we finally reached Isabel’s house I had a real feeling of accomplishment, having contributed to the effort of bringing water to this family’s home. We all had a new understanding of walking in the footsteps of the poor, and a new appreciation of their daily task of fetching water.

So much time and energy is spent each day by Isabel and her children just doing what they must to survive. Gathering water and obtaining food is the main task of each day. There is little time or energy, let alone financial resources, to spend on school work or economic tasks such as developing a business.

If, instead of spending hours each day gathering water, these families were able to get water in only a fraction of that time, and if that water were clean rather than a cause of illness, just think of the difference it would make in their lives!

How much different would our lives be if we had to spend two to four hours each day just getting water to cook and do dishes?

How we take for granted our easy access to water and how little we think of the millions of the people who, along with their small children, are walking 30 minutes or more each day to gather contaminated water so that they can wash, cook, and clean up.

1 comment:

Harriet said...

Oh, the memories. I would pull the 40-pound bottle up to a wheeled desk chair so that I could move it to a table. Then I would back up to the table and pull the bottle over my shoulder.

I was so glad when they changed the openings to a wide one, so you could pour a little without danger while you positioned the bottle.

Nowadays, tG, it's just the Brita pitcher and me. I keep it about half full (sore shoulder), but I pour plenty for Cat, who stares disdainfully at me. He doesn't drink until I'm not watching. He doesn't realize I can hear the "lap, lap, lap."