Patti Nussle, 2009 Volunteer

Patti Nussle, 2009 Volunteer

My life is full of cup-holders and coasters. Everywhere I am, I have a cupholder or a coaster. I have one in my living room next to my favorite chair. I also have not 1 but 2 sets of coasters in my living room on the bookshelf, made by pottery friends in the States and friends in Peru. Last year I hosted a bridal shower at my home, and it was no problem for me to whip out 20 coasters for people to use. (20 plates were a problem, but 20 coasters – no problem.)

I have a coaster on my bedside table, 2 cupholders in my car, a coaster on my desk at work, my boss offers me a coaster so that I do not mess up his desk, and even – dare I say it – I have a coaster in my main bathroom at home. I tell myself that last one is for my guests, in case they need to, you know, set their drink down while using the facilities.

I am never thirsty.

 

I am never far from a drink. Some might say I have a drinking…well, not a problem, exactly…but a drinking “habit”. It might be because I am short 1 or 2 salivary glands, or it might be because I live in a place where walking around with a cup in your hand is moderately acceptable behavior, but in any event, I am never far from a drink.

I always, and I mean always, have a bottle of water or coffee or iced tea at my fingertips. I have one in my car every morning. I have a bottle of water at my workout. Always. And, I don’t go more than 0.7 miles from my home without stocking up on water for the road.

At home, I often drink iced tea, and it is not unusual for me to leave a glass of iced tea in my home office, and then get another glass of iced tea or water in the kitchen. Sometimes, I take one to the basement, where the washing machine and spare stuff of all types are kept. And I often have another glass of iced tea or water for bed at night. Then, in the morning, I simply collect the empty glasses from their coasters and put them in the dishwasher.

Patti Nussle with water she WOULD NOT drink

Patti Nussle with water she WOULD NOT drink

I am never thirsty.

 

As I was preparing to go with the clean water well-installation team of MMM again, the city I live in was preparing to install a storm sewer line on my street. I live close to the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers in Central Ohio, and why no drainage was installed when my house was built 60 years ago, I do not know. But now, the city is spending $1.2 million to install a storm sewer and, at the same time, replace the main water line.

$1.2 million.

For my street.

For water. Clean water.

As I watched them replace the main water line, I saw them dig up the existing main water line, and also the connection from the main water line to the auxillary line and also from the auxillary line to my home. It was a lot of digging. They did this for each home on my street. And the main water line was buried underneath the center of the street. It was a lot of digging, and I know I said that l already, but it was a whole lot of digging. With backhoes and scoopers and equipment I don’t even know the name of. But they did it. A new main water line was eventually connected to my home’s line via a copper pipe, with a brass lever, and all of that was buried at least 6 feet down in my front yard.

I am never thirsty.

Patti at a traditional contaminated water hole

Patti at a traditional contaminated water hole

Hey, I yelled at the guys replacing these water lines. What are you doing? The hole you are digging in my yard, and each of my neighbors’ yards, looks like a burial plot for crying out loud. (It is about 3 feet wide and 6 feet long and 6 feet deep. And, if you have ever driven through a cemetery while graves are being dug, the water line connection hole looked just like that — a cemetery grave.)

We’re sorry, they said. But we have to do this. We do not mean to upset you. The hole in your front yard, the digging and dust and the dump trucks and the noise that go along with moving tons of dirt out of your street…and removing your whole street itself…we are sorry to inconvenience you. Many people are unhappy with us when we come to work, but we are bringing you the pipes that will bring you clean water for the next 50 to 100 years. We are so very sorry to inconvenience you.

Sorry to inconvenience me?

I am never thirsty.

 

In my home, and in yours too, we each have a silver thing on top of the sink in our kitchen. Look at it. You twist it or turn it one way to the left or to the right, and it brings you clean water. Even clean hot water.

At my home, I have faucets on the outside of my house, so that I can connect hoses on the outside …. for watering the grass and the flowers. Because, of course, we all know that the grasses and the flowers need water in order to live.

Yes, even the grasses and the mustard seeds and the flowers of God’s world need water in order to live.

This is old, old biblical stuff.

Patti talking about a well

Patti talking about a well

And, so, this year, my friends ask me if I will go back to Africa. “Will you go back, and install wells for clean water?” they ask me. They know I had a great time, and they know how important it is to me. They know I met wonderful people from across the Christian and non-Christian religious traditions. They know I came back 10 pounds lighter, 5 shades darker, and spouting a glow from doing what you know in your heart of hearts has helped people who have no other means to help themselves. “Will you go back this year?” they ask.

I think about this.

I am never thirsty.

 

Well, maybe. Maybe I can figure out how to get 25 days off of work. Maybe I can figure out how to arrange life’s obligations so that they are taken care of…fully, and carefully…while I’m gone. Maybe I’ll figure out how to pay for this trip, and maybe I can put all of these pieces together in a package that permits me to go.

Or, maybe, you will. Perhaps you’re at a point where you are looking to do something larger than yourself, yet so very physical and tangible as digging a dirt apron around a newly finished hand-dug, hand-bricked and newly cement-capped well. Maybe you are looking for something more solid than the sustained ambiguity of the work-a-day world, like tying plastic PVC pipes and metal hand pumps tight onto the back bed of a 5-speed manual pickup truck.

Patti pumping a newly installed well

Patti pumping a newly installed well

Or perhaps you find you cannot leave your family and obligations…this year. Perhaps going to a very far-away place is not and never will be your thing…which is part of the wonderful fabric of our lives together.

But, in any case,

You will go to Malawi, or you will think about going.

To do what you can, in the place and the time you are at, to help those who have, quite simply, crap-filled water to drink. Water that does nothing short of make sick and often kill these hardworking people and their children.

 

 

You will think and pray about this,
And you will do
what you can,
because by the grace of the Creator of this wonderful world,
and nothing else,
you too
are never,
ever,
really,
thirsty.
Amen.