By: Pastor Mary Beth Hartenstein
Many of you reading this have seen and/or participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, featured in the left portion of the picture above, that has been sweeping the nation in hopes of raising money and bring awareness about ALS, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” This illness is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The book, Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Album, features conversations with the author and his sociology professor, Morrie Schwartz, has Morrie dealt with the progression of his illness.
The right portion of the picture reminded me of my time in Lesotho, Africa, in 2002. Lesotho is a rather mountainous country that is surrounded by South Africa. 40% of its population lives below the international poverty line, which means living on less than $1.25 (United States dollars). A major export for this country is water. Because of the mountainous regions and cooler climate that exists, Lesotho is able to capture the rainfall of the summer thunderstorms and winter snows that cover the mountain peaks and store it in the many lakes that are a part of the region. The multi-billion dollar Lesotho Highlands Water Project constructed a pipeline that then exports the water to the greater Johannesburg area and other areas of South Africa.
When I was in Lesotho, I saw a portion of the pipeline that carries billions of gallons of water elsewhere while the people, who lived next to this massive structure, went to nearby streams with their buckets and jars to then carry it back to their homes. The water ran above them, beside them, or below them (depending on where the pipeline was placed) but it did not run into their own homes. One of their country’s greatest natural resources and it was not theirs to have, use or enjoy.
The Ice Bucket Challenge has proven to be a successful way for many to participate, and encourage others to do so, in raising awareness about a terrible disease. Yet in doing so, have we taken for granted a natural resource that we have and not paused to remember that there are places where throwing a whole container of water “away” would never even be considered?
Just like when your mother may have told you to eat all of your dinner because there were starving children in Africa, the food on your plate was not going to make a difference in stopping hunger somewhere half a world away. The same is true that our dumping water on our heads cannot eliminate the scarcity of the poor quality of water elsewhere. But I hope that we can all take a moment to offer thoughts, words, or prayers for those who have need – whether suffering from a terrible illness or the from the lack of clean water because taking care of our neighbor, around the corner or around the world is what God invites us to do.