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Kittredge: Water From The Well

11/07/12 5:55PM By Susan Cooke Kittredge
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(Host) We've heard a lot recently about the destructive force of rising tides and rushing water. Commentator and minister Susan Cooke Kittredge reflects on how for centuries water has also brought people together.

(Kittredge) Throughout the Bible there are stories of women gathering water - from rivers, from wells, from trickling streams. As they drew water, they no doubt chatted about their lives and shared stories just the way we are apt to do at water coolers, coffee kiosks, local cafes, through email and on our phones. For thousands of years people have bonded together while doing the ordinary tasks of everyday life.

Two of our daughters live in Manhattan and as they walk - people walk a lot in New York even when everything is running normally - they are apt to call just to talk. As they head home from work and I am fixing dinner in Vermont, we kibitz - we chat - about our days, our lives.

In the wake of hurricane Sandy, vital services were lost to thousands of people: electricity, heat, water and fuel. But they also lost the ability to connect, to find out what was going on, to watch TV coverage, to call each other on their phones and share their stories.

The lack of water - if only for flushing toilets-drove people to the streets with buckets and empty Clorox jugs. Fire hydrants became wells of salvation for many. Not only could they get the water they desperately needed, but while waiting in line, they shared stories and fears and comforted one another. How ironic that in a flooded city gathering water offered solace.

We all have figurative wells in our lives, places where we go for renewal, places we go to fill ourselves up when we feel thoroughly depleted. For some it is taking a walk alone or with a friend or a dog; for others it is an actual religious sanctuary, for some it is music, art, sports, bake therapy or water - the lake, a river, the ocean. One young mother told me recently that it's hard for her to get out while raising young children so her private sanctuary is her computer.

Henri Nouwen, the priest and prolific writer on spirituality once suggested that we see ourselves as a bowl. For those who serve others - and we all do to some extent - there is an ever-present danger that our bowls will become empty. Determined to keep on going, keep on giving, we endeavor to pour from hollow vessels. The trouble, Nouwen points out, is that when we do so we pour forth nothing more than toxic glaze, thereby poisoning those whom we seek to help and diminishing our own structure.

As people in New York and New Jersey recover from Sandy and we all seek to recover from the storm of the Presidential election, it's worth asking ourselves where our own wells might be. Where might we go to replenish our spirits and bodies? Even with electricity, the dark and chill of winter are closing in. It's time to refill our bowls so that we might share real light and warmth with others.


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