Giving thanks for 'sweet water'

A Christian Science perspective: Earth Day can be a time to give gratitude for God's abundance.

This Earth Day, an estimated 1 billion people worldwide will participate in local events celebrating the wonders of our planet. The day will also be dedicated to raising awareness about the continuing and urgent need to care well for the environment. As I spent some time earlier this month considering how to participate, a recent experience came to mind.

Several weeks ago I noticed on the wall in a local official’s office a large satellite map of the area where I live. One thing made apparent by the map was that all the different bodies of water scattered over this 35-square-mile township that I call home have one source. There is one great aquifer running underneath it all – one deep flow of fresh water coursing mostly unseen through the neighborhoods, under the roads, and into the parks, bubbling up as lakes, streams, and little fishing holes.

I have thought of that image many times since seeing it, often in relation to my faith. As a Christian, I turn to the Bible to learn about God; it teaches me about Him just like satellite maps teach me about Earth’s terrain. From the Bible, I understand God to be the only source of all goodness – and even if it looks to the human eye as though He might have disappeared, or even that He doesn’t exist at all, He is just as present as that aquifer.

In my town, as elsewhere in the world, there is much concern about both the quality and quantity of water. Dire predictions abound, but legitimate concern does not need to be accompanied by fear. In truth, fear gets in the way of finding solutions, because it induces feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

Some of my favorite verses from the Bible include water metaphors such as this one: “Thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures. For with thee is the fountain of life” (Psalms 36:8, 9). In times of discouragement, how revitalizing it is to think of drinking of the river of God’s goodness while standing under the fountain of Life – a river that is endlessly forgiving and a fountain that pours out unconditional love! Or just when it seems that every solution to a problem has been tried and failure is imminent, there is this promise from God: “In the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water” (Isaiah 35:6, 7). It was from the Bible that I first heard the adjective “sweet” applied to water: “Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 3:11).

Sweet water ... what a lovely image! The phrase refers to fresh water (as opposed to salt water), but for me, it brings images of all things fresh, cool, calm, pure, and kind. How nice it would be to spend Earth Day appreciating our Father-Mother God, the fountain of Life, which is mankind’s source for all things sweet. Like plants in a garden soaking up showers and blooming with life, we, drinking deeply from the inspiration of God, bloom with sweetness. “Sweetness” may be an old-fashioned idea, but it doesn’t have to be out of fashion. Instead of dwelling on cynicism or bitterness, why not devote ourselves to being sweet? Why not make an extra effort to speak words that are polite and encouraging to everyone we meet?

Whatever Earth Day activities we may be engaged in, why not bring along a pitcher of kindness to share? Refreshed and encouraged, rather than parched and distressed, we are better able to implement solutions to water problems – or any other environmental challenge.

The fountain of good is free to all. Drink heartily and then pass that glass to the person standing next to you!

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

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