If life gives you a well…

Photo from donate.worldvision.org

Photo from worldvision.org

I tell him I was at the university for a decade. He whistles through his teeth.

“Is your mother still alive?” he asks.


“If I was her, I would wrap you in cotton wool.  I would give you antibiotics every day just in case you get sick.  I would never allow you to go anywhere it is dangerous.  She should take out insurance on you.  You are more valuable than a room full of diamonds.”

–       Jonny Steinberg, Thin Blue, p. 101

Like Jonny Steinberg, a researcher who held the above conversation with a police officer in one of the toughest neighborhoods in South Africa, I have to ask myself, “Who am I to have so much education?”

After four years of undergrad, another three classes as a continuing education student, two years of MBA, and now in my third year year of a possibly eight-year-long PhD program, one asks these questions.  Especially when one’s research involves walking around talking to people who are lucky to have finished high school, much less college, and even if they have, who might not get a job paying more than $10 a day in their whole lifetime.

To those to whom much has been given, much will be asked.  And I’ve sure been given a heck of a lot.  Opportunities.  Education.  Money.  Home.  Water.

Sometimes it’d be easier to just have a little less given to me.

This month we dropped more than the price of my car on a new well.  You might say we didn’t have much choice in the matter—a family needs water, right?  But then, we did get the well.  We did get to choose to dig into savings and cough up the money and hire the well diggers.

Lots of people don’t have that choice.  Our little well chugging out water for my shower and porridge this morning could be saving a lot of people somewhere else in the world from sickness or miles of walking.


Over the last couple years my children have latched on to the World Vision gift catalog phenomenon.  It wasn’t something we planned as parents, just something our kids got so excited about that they started spending their own money and raising more from lemonade stands and bake sales. We couldn’t turn down that kind of kid-enthusiasm for a good cause, so we went with it.  Every year our kids get almost as much joy as they do from their own Chirstmas-list writing (ok, not as much, but at least still a lot of joy) by thumbing through the World Vision catalog deciding whether we’re going to get a goat or a pig or a fishing net or a heap of medicines to give to people around the world for Christmas.

Yesterday the World Vision gift catalog arrived in the mail.  By the time he’d walked up the driveway with it in his hand, my son had already picked out what he wants to buy this year (“fish and chicks,” he said, liking the cleverness of the fish and chips pun).

As we’ve improved our own home and land over the last couple years, we’ve made a tradition of trying to match up what God gives us with gifts elsewhere.

When we bought our first batch of chicks, we gave chicks to someone who can use them to feed their family.

When we found a beekeeper who put hives on our property, we gave a hive to someone else.

When my son got a new fishing pole, we gave fishing gear.

When my brother gave the kids a pet rabbit, we gave rabbits.

And this year… this year we got ourselves a well.


Also then someone decided I should really have a copy of a bunch of devotionals all about people waiting for clean water.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know the things I know and believe the things I believe.

The price tag on a deep well through World Vision is $15,000.  There’s also the hand-drilled one for $3,000, or a share for $100.  Or there’s the easiest option: stop thinking about it and do nothing.

Tonight we’ll meet as a family to talk about what to get out of the gift catalog this year.

I’m thinking somebody ought to have an extra merry Christmas somewhere.


  1. Leah

    I love this idea! This year Emery discovered the “joy” of looking through the toy catalog and compiling his Christmas wish list. I really like channeling some of that energy into picking out gifts for other people. We got the Heifer International catalog the other day…maybe we’ll pull that out soon and make a list from that one too!

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