Now It’s Personal
By Terry Brown of Pigeon, MI, USA
God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare. —Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a
I can still see the images from my Sunday school days—people from developing nations carrying large pots on their heads or shoulders for long distances, providing their family with water. I learned of Outreach International and other ways I could make a difference in the lives of people on the other side of the world. I mistakenly believed this was a problem faced by others, not by fortunate people like me. So I gave some money. Giving made me feel better.
Within months after my election to the state legislature in 2008, it became personal. A newspaper article challenged me to act on the poor condition of the lake shore in my district. The article referred to a song titled “Terry Brown, We’ve Got This Mucky Water” using the same tune of Herman’s Hermits’ song “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.” It was a plea for me to find and bring into law solutions to prevent the shoreline run-off of contaminants causing a severe algae bloom. It was important, not only for the poor aesthetics or the damage to fish and other creatures, but also because our community’s drinking water—including that of my family—was drawn from that lake. The problem had become deeply personal.
Healing the damage we have done to our planet’s ecosystem is not easy to resolve. We confront business interests, personal habits, and beliefs. Solutions often cost millions of dollars. Fortunately, this problem was visible and upsetting enough that concerned people took action.
Annual beach clean-ups began. Forums explored causes and alternatives for dealing with the issue. Pressure on the legislature resulted in passage of a bill I drafted that all but removed phosphorus as a fertilizer used on local lawns, one of the leading contributors to the pollution. However, sewer overflows, farm run-off, and industrial pollution continue to contaminate our rivers and lakes. Plastic and other debris find their way into our waterways, combining to make toxins we have yet to understand.
The citizens of Flint, Michigan, trusted their municipal water supply until they discovered that preventable conditions allowed lead to contaminate the drinking water of thousands and poison their children.
Most of us turn on the tap taking for granted the great gifts that come from this blue planet we call home. What are we willing to do to ensure safe water is within the reach of all people, now and in the future?
Prayer for Peace
Creator God, forgive our complacency and self-indulgence. Call us to action. Help us know as we share a cup of clean water with the stranger, we share it with you.
Spiritual Practice is written by today’s author:
Meditate on a specific habitat in nature. Ask yourself, “Who or what might depend on this place for survival?” Adopt a shoreline, a waterway, a park, or a wild place, and look out for its welfare. Pick up trash all around it. Write a letter to an official or newspaper on environmental issues. Offer prayers to alleviate the suffering of dying plants and animals, polluted rivers and seas, and places with toxic soil.
Today, God, I will awaken from the illusion that my behaviors and practices cause no harm, and I will make a change that offers hope.