Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

Good to the Last Drop

by Ann Cavera



In the sixth century B.C., an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem wrote, "We must pay for the water we drink…" (Lamentations 5:4 NRSV) A few years ago, we had to go several hours one day without running water while workers repaired a break in the water main. The ancient writer's words reminded us that there really is nothing new under the sun. Water is as necessary for life now as it was 2,600 years ago. Our grandsons were with us that day, making the lack of water doubly inconvenient. After lunch I automatically turned on the faucet to rinse their sticky little hands and found no water. Dishes couldn't be rinsed and even the placemats on the table had to stay stained. All day long, without thinking, we kept turning on dry faucets because clean running water was something we took for granted. After a few hours, we would have paid almost any price to have our running water restored.

Not long afterwards, we watched a DVD one of us had found at the library. It was called "Blue Gold - World Water Wars," and it was an excellent documentary that detailed the fragility of the earth's water supply. It had been named the best environmental film at the 2008 International Film Festival in Vancouver. Anyone who saw "Blue Gold" would always think twice before picking up one of those little plastic bottles filled with water. We are so used to having easy access to clean water we forget how many people live with polluted water and how many diseases accompany that pollution.

In addition to giving a perspective of how interconnected life is, "Blue Gold" also highlights the efforts of groups and individuals who are making a difference in bringing clean water to many people. In 1998 Canadian Ryan Herljac was in first grade when his teacher told the class that people were dying because they didn't have clean water. Ryan set his mind to building a well so that people would not die from drinking polluted water. His parents encouraged him to earn the money to build one clean well in an African village. Ryan built his first well in 1999. Today, at age 22, his foundation has completed hundreds of water and sanitation projects in many countries.

We live in a time when thousands of people have difficulty finding clean water to drink, not to mention finding enough to wash their children's sticky fingers "Blue Gold" encouraged us to make small changes in our own habits. Even something as simple as turning off the water while we brush our teeth or using refillable bottles when we need portable water can make a positive difference. In 1987, Pope John Paul II wrote: "….natural resources are limited; some are not, as it is said, renewable. Using them as if they were inexhaustible, with absolute dominion, seriously endangers their availability, not only for the present generation but above all for generations to come." (On Social Concern #34)

Just this past week, the news carried stories of the discovery of water in the soil on Mars. We thought this was interesting and might be very good for people in the future if they decide to live on Mars. Meanwhile, what will our grandchildren drink?  

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.