Saturday, January 18, 2014

WATER! Hong Kong 1967 style and California 2014 style, a theological pondering

My family lived in Hong Kong in the mid 1960s, and among many interesting geopolitical events was the drought which happened around 1967. I was not even ten years old at the time, but I remember vividly the rationing restrictions. I wish Bill and Madge were alive to confirm my suspicions, but it remains my sense that "the big faucet" was literally turned off by the government. A quick check on Wikipedia tells me that we received 4 hours of water every 4 days, and that confirms my memory. Whether we were on the "honor system" or whether the system was actually turned on and off I will need to research.

What I do remember is that we would fill up the bathtubs and also fill a very large cistern in our kitchen  - maybe five feet tall by two feet in diameter - for drinking water. What children in a tropical climate would not think that a cool bath every other day is completely sufficient, with visits to the beach in between for good measure?   Did we madly wash clothes and dishes? Take long hot showers during the four hours?  Wash the car? The dog?  The garden?  I have no memory. What I remember learning was that water was a precious resource. I don't remember thinking so much there was a shortage as that it was so very important, something to be cared for.

I have many friends and colleagues trading tips and ideas about how to save water. Our state of California is in the driest year of recorded history, with absolutely no rain in sight. I also have friends and colleagues theologizing and philosophizing about the drought and about our negligence in our care and stewardship of Mother Earth. We have been praying for over a month now for rain, every time we participate in public worship at church. We are coming up with conservation measures for the congregation. And yet, I still come away being so extremely grateful for every drop of water. The gap between my actual use and this gratitude is great: I do not practice very well what my heart tells me.

And so this evening, I found myself on Facebook offering ideas to a friend and colleague and by extension his friends and colleagues. And it strikes me to say that the "ideas"...buckets in showers and by all faucets, toilet flushing etiquette, et cetera....are all fine. But the awareness that the buckets brings, the consciousness it takes "not" to flush, point to the real theological truth that we know...that water, born from our earth and from the skies, is precious, to be cared for like "the pearl of great price" in the Gospels. The current crisis of water in my state and my memory of living through a similar situation as a child call me to gratitude, for what we have and what we can conserve.

My long hot showers of tomorrow are over (it's good spiritual practice to make a public commitment!) and the backyard is already used to used water. I give thanks for childhood wisdom. And for living water.

Fern Spring Fall at Yosemite...a native American sacred site.

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