In this Year of Mercy, I have been trying to reflect (and practice) more on the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. The current water contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan* has kept my mind on the second Corporal Work of Mercy for some time now – Giving drink to the thirsty.
It is not possible to overstate the importance of water. Water is life.
We learned in science class that a newborn baby is around 75% water, the average adult male is 60-65%, and an adult female in the area of 55%. We also know that though we can survive for a few weeks without food, we can only live for a few days without water.
Water is also essential to our life with God. Through the waters of baptism, we enter into the divine life.
But we take it for granted no doubt. In an affluent society, when the water source is shut down, it doesn’t take long to realize how much we go to the faucet. And, like with food, much of it is wasted.
If your children watched Barney when they were young, you probably overheard this song ad nauseam:
“But while I’m brushing my teeth and having so much fun
I never let the water run, no I never let the water run.”
The show was not lacking in critics, but there is an important lesson of social justice in that little song.
The average American uses anywhere from 70-100 gallons of water per day – far more than we need – while access to clean and safe water is a crisis in many parts of the world. There is too much waste, pollution, and mismanagement. Unsafe water is responsible for more than a million deaths each year.
When someone stops by our church office, we try to remember to offer them a drink. Offering a visitor something to drink is a fundamental act of hospitality. Another act of hospitality would be for us to be mindful about our water consumption and cut down where we can – to be good stewards of the abundance of water at our disposal.
*If you would like to donate to the relief efforts through Catholic Charities, go to: http://www.catholiccharitiesflint.org/flint-water-crisis/