Why must I always experience some hardship to keep things in perspective? I returned home from work this afternoon (a Saturday) to discover the following message (more or less) on my answering machine: “Hello, this is [my landlord] calling to inform you that the hot water heater in your building is not working properly. The unit itself needs to be replaced and this cannot be done until Monday. We apologize for any inconvenience.” My initial reaction was to panic. (I am sometimes melodramatic. It’s part of my charm.) After I calmed down, I realized that I’m fortunate to have friends in the area who have working hot water heaters and, more importantly, who are willing to let me take a shower at their place in my time of need. But there’s a bigger lesson to be learned here.

Allow me to share some water facts with you from WaterPartners International, one of my favorite nonprofits:

  • More than one billion people lack access to a safe supply of drinking water;
  • Millions of women and children spend several hours a day collecting water from distant, often polluted sources;
  • The average American individual [emphasis added] uses 100 to 176 gallons of water at home each day. The average African family [emphasis added] uses about 5 gallons of water each day;
  • Poor people living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city;
  • Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water live on less than $2 a day;
  • 88 percent of all diseases are caused by unsafe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene;
  • At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from a water-related disease;
  • Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease; and
  • No intervention has greater overall impact upon national development and public health than the provision of safe drinking water and the proper disposal of human waste.

I know that I’ll survive this weekend without hot water flowing from my own tap. But I pray that some of my ethnocentrism and some of my egocentrism won’t.

Maybe God has blessed us with everything we have so we can bless and give to others. — Rob Bell