Water is NOT a Commodity


Nine (9) year-old Luke Sekera-Flanders of Fryeburg in Maine’s poorest county, Oxford County, took on the Nestle company, one of the world’s largest bottled water-for-profit producers, which was seeking a 45 year contract with the Public Utilities Commission. Nestle’s CEO has declared there is no human right to water and that the way to preserve water is to put a price on it. Nestle sees water as a commodity.

“I get my water from the Fryeburg Water Company,” said Luke. “In school we learn about being a good neighbor….”

Sometimes we live on different planets, one public and poor; the other private and getting richer. Or different sides of an aisle as at last night’s State of the Union Address. Score one for the Psalmist: “Out of the mouths of babes and suckling…” (Ps. 8:2)  Click the link below to hear Fryeburg’s little David, Luke Sekera-Flanders.

Boy testifying against Nestle contract in Fryeburg, Maine

This video won a special place in my heart. Oxford County is my maternal ancestral home. My mother and the rest of the Titus and Andrews family would be so proud of Luke.


1% of water

on the earth we can drink

(all the rest is salty.)

Since our bodies, we think,

are more than half water,

then thinking is faulty

that will waste and pollute.

U.S. Senator Paul Simon, b.1928, d.2003

Senator Simon said

the crops need to be fed

that life-giving liquid.

Can we be resolute,

look into the future,

change wasteful behavior?

Will the glaciers all melt

and the deserts expand?

Will there always be drought?

Will our rivers run dry?

Cumulus clouds

Will there never be snow?

And will anything grow

with no clouds in the sky?

– Steve Shoemaker, Urbana, IL Sept. 26, 2012

“Where are the ashes!!!”

Gordon C. Stewart, February 24, 2012

It happened on Ash Wednesday.

“They’re missing! Where are the ashes?!” It’s fifteen minutes before the Service. “Where are the ashes!”

Every year I put the ashes for the Ash Wednesday Service in the credenza in my office. I never gave it a second thought that we had moved the credenza out of my office last fall. I rush downstairs to look for it. No credenza anywhere. Then…I remember. We sold it at the Annual Fall Festival! Somebody has our ashes!

What to do with no ashes? Burn some newspapers? Smoke a cigar and use the ashes? No time.

I grab a pitcher and pour water into the baptism font.

I begin the Service with the story of the missing ashes. Smiles break out everywhere. Maybe even signs of relief. “Instead of the imposition of ashes this year, we will go to the font for the waters of baptism, the waters of the renewal of life.”

We have some fun justifying the change in the Service, focusing on the that part of the Gospel text for the day – the words of Jesus himself. “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen my others….But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret…”(Mt. 6:16-18).

People come to the font, one-by-one, for “the Imposition of … [Water]”. I dip my hand into the font. “Pat, (making the sign of the cross on her forehead), “Dust to dust; ashes to ashes. You are a child of God. Live in this peace.”

After the Service is over, one of the worshipers asks whether anyone has done the same for me. She reaches her hand into the font. “Gordon, dust to dust, ashes to ashes. You are a child of God…..”

I’ll never forget it. Neither will they. And somewhere in this world someone has a credenza with a sack full of ashes. Whoever you are, feel free to keep them. They’re all yours.