It was way too hot to run, so I set out on a long walk. Several podcasts loaded in my phone, I looked forward to the time in my own head. And I’m not sure when I’ll learn the truth of it, but as today showed me, we never walk alone.
I rounded the two-mile mark when I came across a Mom, her two daughters, and their adorable little dog. The kids had been bugging their mother about walking on a hot day, and she stopped to ask me how long I was going. When I said I hoped to walk at least three miles, the Mom used my walk as an object lesson, and I encouraged the kids to keep going. “I’m way older than you, and if I can do it, you definitely can,” I said. The little girl flopped dramatically on the sidewalk and said she could make it if she just had some water. “Do you have any water?” she asked. I laughed, told her no, but encouraged her on.
It wasn’t long after that that I felt my heart start to race. It was over ninety degrees and seriously humid. I should have brought water along with me, but it was too late for that. I was a long way from home.
About six houses away, there was a woman working in her garden, and she had a sprinkler running on the small plantings. It was a weird request, but I summoned up the courage to ask her to spray me, and she happily did. I was running out of choices, I needed water and quick.
I was soaked and felt better for a bit as I went, but soon my heart pounded yet again, and I started to feel dizzy. When my vision was affected, I knew I was in trouble, and I wasn’t sure I would make it home. I doubled back to a local coffee place and asked for a cup of water, which they graciously gave me filled with ice. I sat in their air conditioning, rested, and thought about the kindness of people, our communal thirst for water.
As we walk the road of life, it can get hard to manage sometimes. Some days the hazards of our environment, whether personally, relationally, or globally, make it outright dangerous to walk, but there’s not much choice in the matter. We walk, we rest, we keep going. One thing’s for sure, we could never manage without each other.
Sometimes the help we offer looks like encouragement, like the words I gave to that little girl on the sidewalk. We spur each other on, lighten each other’s mood, express our belief in the capability of someone else. Sometimes it looks like being doused with a hose on a hot day, pouring over relief and goodness when the elements are too much to take. Sometimes it looks like a cup of cold water and an open chair and time to rest a while. I’ve never experienced a Bible verse literally before that moment, and as I sat there in the coffee shop, I thought of the full weight and meaning of Matthew 10:42.
And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.
God bless those coffee shop girls.
Jesus talks about water frequently in the gospels, and He sometimes refers to living water, the kind He offers the Samaritan woman at the well so she’ll never be thirsty again. (John 4:1-26) He says it again amidst a crowd, and who knows what they believed or thought as He offered them “rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-39) It’s hard to imagine they understood the weight of it, this gift of the Holy Spirit that refreshes and renews, but they certainly understood water and the need of it in the heat of the day. All of us have been there.
We walk this road, and we ask for and offer help as we go. There’s a connectivity which is alive between and among us that we rarely see except in our need. And it’s hard to ask for help, God knows, but asking, and seeing the need in the other and acting on it, that’s everything. It’s how we walk each other home.
postscript: I was sitting in my backyard as I finished this piece, and as I clicked ‘publish’, a gentle rain started to fall. God is good.