Photo courtesy of Three Rivers Avian Center, Brooks, West Virginia
(Sharyn Ogden, photographer)
The city of my birth is currently experiencing a water emergency.
An industrial company allowed a chemical to leak into one of the rivers that runs right through town.
An estimated 300,000 people in Charleston, West Virginia and in several surrounding counties have been told not to use their water.
OK – they can flush the toilets and put out fires.
But no drinking, no cooking, no washing, no bathing, no laundry, etc…
DO NOT USE.
Restaurants and schools are closed.
The communities and many who live beyond these communities have pulled together and are coping.
Officials don’t know how long this situation will persist.
But despite the current upheaval, it’s assumed and believed that eventually things will get back to normal.
It’s an eye-opening experience.
You can make do without lots of things in life.
Water isn’t one of them.
Usually we don’t have to.
We take this for granted.
I take this for granted.
Lots of people in the world have not had that luxury.
They don’t take clean water for granted.
They’ve never taken clean water for granted.
They don’t have clean water and it is not the result of a temporary interruption in service.
Estimates of how many people don’t have access to safe water vary, but generally the number hovers around one billion.
The lack of clean water results in disease and poverty and death.
It results in people (mostly women and children) spending a large portion of their time “hunting and gathering” for water that is anywhere close to being clean.
The city of my birth is still coping with this temporary interruption in service.
But in the midst of trial comes opportunity for growth.
Something good can come of this very bad situation.
Perhaps we will stop taking clean water for granted.
Perhaps we will take more notice of those around the world who live with this situation every day.
Perhaps we will then become more engaged in efforts to help them.
And… since this situation was not caused by a “natural disaster” but by a man-made disaster that’s affected nature…
Perhaps we will become more watchful of how we steward our own resources to make sure they are protected and there for us and future generations.
Water is off but social media is flowing in the midst of this current crisis.
People are sharing information, pointing to water distribution sites, providing context about the type of chemical in the water, and offering to open their homes to those affected.
One person described seeing an elderly woman arrive at the store in search of water only to find the shelves bare.
The elderly woman was too late.
But she was not alone or forgotten.
The person went on to say that two teenagers were in line, each purchasing two jugs of water.
They paid for their water and then called out to the elderly woman to wait.
They each gave her one of their jugs of water, refusing her offer to pay for them.
That story made me cry.
It made me cry with happiness that we live in a world where we watch out for one another and we make sure the weak receive help.
It’s often in moments of crisis like this that we witness this version of our world.
May we learn to seek this version of the world even on days when the water is plentiful…
…and taken for granted.