I could see his ‘wheels spinning’ faster than a Tibetan prayer wheel . . .
Ten year olds are wonderful. Their basic learning skills are conquered and with minds like sponges, eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear, minds not yet cynical, they are avidly ready for new ideas, and I do believe this past summer I saw one such boy become a dyed in the wool environmentalist.
See, Joey was with me as I poured a pan of dirty water down the drain, and casually mused, “I wonder who’ll be the next person to drink that water?”
His eyes told me he didn’t know what I was talking about, so a big discussion about water began. He later told his school teacher about it, and she had him tell the class. Not bad for a ten year old, huh?
So, what did I say that entranced so young a lad? Well, I explained that there is only so much water in the whole world. That we are re-using the same water that Adam and Eve used, and it will still be the same water when the opposite of The Big Bang happens. The very same, just used and re-used over and over and over.
Then it became a game as we began naming its different forms, all the way from a mountain stream, to ice, snow, rain, gutters, sewers, glaciers, clouds, dry ice, steam and so forth.
But before long, with a serious look on his face, he edged back to the ‘sewer’ bit and with a grin on mine, I said, “Now, Joey, almost every time I see you, you have some kind of drink in your hands, and just where does it finally go?” I could see he didn’t want to accept where my words were taking him. But reluctantly he said, “Well, I go to the bathroom.” (and no, that isn’t how he said it), but I laughed and said, “Yeah, and you don’t think it gets thrown away, do you? And anyway, just where would they throw it?”
I handed him a bottle of water and said, “Joey, this is the very same water Noah floated his ark upon; that Moses parted in the Red Sea; where the Indians paddled their canoes; and the same water dinosaurs mucked around in before there were even people.”
We followed the circle backward from the mountain stream, to melting snow, to the heavy clouds that drop the snow (or rain) and further back to the way those clouds are formed from moisture rising from the oceans.
He didn’t have too much else to say, but as he left for home, I could see his ‘wheels spinning’ faster than a Tibetan prayer wheel, and the next day he was back with one big question, that of, ” How does it get cleaned up?
He hadn’t liked the idea that water, no matter in what form we use or see it, ultimately comes right back to our kitchen tap, and was now doing his best to get clean water there. And I believe it was at this point he started to become a serious ‘save the environment” kind of kid.
It was wonderful to watch his mind follow the trail from snow of a thousand years ago, forming glaciers, which either melt into streams or ‘calf’ off into the oceans. He spoke of steam at his mother’s stove, ice cubes, and on and on. It was a delight to watch his mind work and almost wished I could have been a school teacher.
I don’t think he will ever again look upon ‘water’ in any form, the same way as he did before knowing that the clear, clean water we’re drinking has been used by so many different people and in so many different ways. It’s sobering, and not too comfortable, but like it or not, this ole’ world has only a certain amount of water (and earth, too). and that they both do get used over and over and over.
I saw Joey’s ten year old mind digging deep and I doubt he’ll ever again think of water (and perhaps the earth, too) in a casual way again. I believe I saw an environmentalist come into being, and it was good. And doubly good that I had had a role in awakening that young ten year old to a greater world.