Michelle Martin

Just add water

Sunday, May 29, 2016

There’s a new lock screen on my phone: Teresa, dripping wet, with a big grin showing off the gap where her bottom front teeth are missing.

I took the picture at a local indoor water park, the scene of her kindergarten Daisy troop’s end-of-the-year outing. The overnight was a success, with the girls and moms who went getting a chance to relax and play outside their normal setting.

Girls will be girls, and even though most of the little ones there were 6 years old, there were many compliments on swimsuit fashion. Those quickly gave way to discussions over which goggles were most effective in keeping water out of their eyes in the wave pool.

While the water park featured several long (and tall) tube slides that most of the girls were big enough to go on, few of them did. Rather, they enjoyed the shorter open slides, and even spent a good bit of time on the wide, shallow slides in the kiddie section. Even the lazy river raft ride was a big hit.

As the girls wandered from section to section, moms trailed along, sometimes joining their daughter in the water, other times sitting at the edge and watching the kids and talking with other parents.

At one point, I found myself sitting in the shallow water at the edge of the wave pool, having a one-on-one conversation with Teresa. It struck me that we probably looked like a couple of contestants on “Survivor” putting our heads together and plotting. I think we were actually talking about the Tooth Fairy, a subject of deep personal relevance to Teresa at the moment.

It’s no accident that those moments came gathered around or in the water, even water in such an artificial environment as an indoor water park. Water makes up much of our bodies and is one of the prerequisites for life. Water sustains us, and also connects us. Communities and cultures form around water.

This summer, I’m hoping we can spend some time around water, whether it’s the plastic wading pool in the backyard, going to the beach or taking a boat trip. At the same time, we must reflect on the threats to the global water supply. One in nine people around the world do not have access to safe water, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, and each year, 3.5 million people die because of inadequate water supply, sanitation or hygiene.

Renewing our commitment to making sure people have clean water — whether in Chicago; Flint, Michigan; or Ethiopia, where Catholic Relief Services provides wells and irrigation — is something we can all do when we visit the water to find some renewal for ourselves.