A couple friends and I participated in an annual Alternative Gift Fair yesterday as a fundraiser for the food pantry where we all volunteer. We sold gift sets consisting of bean soup and cornbread mixes in a jar and also accepted direct contributions, providing a certificate for use in presenting an alternative gift to someone. The event is held at the student center of the university campus where my former parish is located, with 20 tables in a circle around the center atrium.
Two tables over from ours, I was immediately intrigued by the name of the ministry — “Water with Blessings” — and further fascinated by their demonstration. Before our eyes a bucket of muddy water was transformed into a clean drink of water in a matter of seconds. The compact Sawyer filter that can process up to 500 gallons per day is attached to the bucket, and that’s pretty much it. The filters are certified for “absolute 1 microns” making it impossible for harmful bacteria, protozoa, or cysts like E. coli, Giradia, Vibrio cholerae and Salmonella typhi (which cause Cholera and Typhoid) to pass through. The system can last a decade without needing to be replaced.
The local Sisters of Charity have partnered with Louisville-based Water with Blessings to spread this low-tech, low-cost, reliable solution to the problem of unsanitary water around the world. According to UNICEF, 783 million people do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. A contribution of $60 to Water with Blessings sponsors a “Water Woman” who receives the filter system, the training to use and maintain it, along with broader clean water education.
“That’s the water part,” I heard Debbie, the coordinator, explain multiple times yesterday. “The blessings part is that she will also filter water for at least three other households in her community, so she’s helping not just her own family but other families too.” Something about this ministry really touched me — perhaps the close interweaving of practical and spiritual dimensions — so I sponsored a Water Woman for a family member I think will appreciate this as well.
Today I continue to reflect on the “blessings part” that may go unnoticed in any situation. The Alternative Gift Fair itself has the “shopping part” but also the “blessing part” in support for causes and people and practices. The food I receive from the CSA has a “vegetable part” in the actual food we consume and a “blessing part” in the sustainable practices that care for the earth and the cooperative business arrangement that pays the farmers a living wage. I want to be more conscious of naming life’s “blessing parts.”