White linen peeked out from beneath the heart-shaped tin, foil wrapped plant and a circle of water bottles decorated with colorful ribbon curling down the sides. In the middle, sat a bottle of murky liquid with sludge lining the bottom. It was like the game on Sesame Street, “one of this things are not like the other.”
The bottle was brought to illustrate that one in six people in this world do not have access to clean drinking water. Their water comes from resources used for bathing, washing clothes and sewage. Someone shook the bottle so the sludge and liquid combined and then asked if anyone would like a drink.
As I was driving home from the meeting, I kept thinking about that water bottle. How many life lessons could be learned from it?
The obvious lesson would be gratitude for our clean water. We are so spoiled that tap water is not good enough, we need bottled. Our communities are debating the affects of fluoride in our drinking water like it is poison, what luxury. The endless stream of crystal clear water runs through our hands, our dishes, our clothes, our bodies and down a drain, a cycle we take for granted every day. Being grateful isn’t an immediate response every time we turn on the tap, but it should be.
There is also a lesson about contrast. As the sludge settled, the liquid became clearer, almost normal, almost acceptable, until placed next to our water bottle. No one would drink the water then. Sometimes, we have to see the best to know that we are not there yet and we need to be better.
Occasionally, God has to plunk ugly down right into the middle of our beautiful life for us to pay attention to the world. To see that everyone doesn’t have a beautiful life and it is our responsibility to help make it so.
A weed in a beautiful garden is still a weed. We may try to “pretty” up a problem through packaging or media spin or by wearing rose colored glasses, but it is still there begging to be changed. The beautiful table setting, ribbons and hearts could not make up for that sludge.
Personally, the lesson that will be forever imprinted upon my soul is when life gets dirty, be still. As the bottle sat, particles began sinking to the bottom and each minute the water became clearer. The bottle didn’t need to do anything to make its contents better, other than be still.
I think about my life, when it swirls out of control, my view gets murky and my foundation feels shaky, that after I stop trying everything to fix it and just be still with God, it becomes clearer. Some call it meditation, some call it prayer. Being still, letting the dust settle. Letting all the dirt of life drift to bottom, making the rest of it clean. Clearing the way. Seeing again.
Who knew a water bottle could teach us that?