In the city where I live, I do not have to drive far to see people in need. As the hot Oklahoma sun beats down, these men and women hold cardboard signs and look on as cars zoom past. I’ve found that there is a bit of debate on how best to act in this situation. Some people say that we should give monetary handouts to those individuals who are begging by the side of the road. Other people say that we should only give them food or transportation vouchers. This debate seems to bounce back and forth, and in the end, many people simply don’t do anything. It’s too tiring and exhausting to figure out the “best” option, so it’s much easier to go about our daily business without giving a second thought to the man with the shopping cart and stuffed grocery bags, isn’t it?
I know, because I have done this time and time again. It’s easy to find good excuses for not reaching out to that man or woman on the street corner. Whether my child is throwing a fit, I’m running late to a commitment, or I don’t have any extra food on hand, I often find myself without the time or resources to give to others. However, as I’ve deliberated over time and thought about basic human needs, I’ve come to realize that there is one tangible way in which I can help other men and women: I can give them water.
Water is a basic necessity for human beings. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, over half of the human body is made of up water. Dehydration causes a variety of health problems, and while a variety of different estimates circulate on how much water a person needs to drink each day, experts all agree that the human person needs to consume water to survive. Pope Francis comments on this in his encyclical, Laudato Si’, and notes:
“…access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity” (30).
We often think about the lack of access to drinking water in third world countries, but do we think about the lack of drinking water faced by homeless men and women in our nation? Those of us who live in homes can turn on the faucet to get a glass of water whenever we desire, but homeless people do not have this luxury. So, when I can, I bring water to homeless individuals. This is a very easy way to reach out to others in my community as I try to meet a need that is always present (especially in hot weather). I simply buy packs of bottled water to keep in my car. Then, if I’m stopped at a red light or in a parking lot and see a person in need, I can give him or her a couple of bottles of water with a smile and a greeting. This service is something that all people, regardless of age, can do to love and serve our brothers and sisters in need.
We may not be in the Year of Mercy anymore, but we should still practice the Corporal Works of Mercy in our daily lives. So let us “give drink to the thirsty” this summer.
Copyright 2017 AnneMarie Miller