Water—so simple, yet the issues surrounding the lack of the most basic human necessity are so complex. As someone who grew up in the Western, developed world, I find it difficult to understand the very real consequences of the global shortage of potable water. Although I do understand it on a theoretical level, the tangible, human implications are still lost on me, simply because the ineffable suffering resulting from lack of water is something I can only pretend to comprehend. That being said, I feel that it behooves those of us who have never experienced true, fatal thirst to stop and reflect for a moment on some of these water issues and their importance.
In a very recent Boston Globe opinion article, the author, Janet Wu, offers a striking meditation on Boston's recent "water crisis." For approximately two and a half days, about 2 million residents of the city were forced to boil water because a water pipe had unexpectedly broken. In the article, Wu discusses the lessons learned from an experience that was, at its worst, only an inconvenience. She describes the out-and-out hysteria that was felt throughout the city. And she rightly concludes that we, especially in America, are spoiled. She writes, "How lucky we are that even our back-up water supply is clean enough that boiling makes it safe to drink. Think about the rest of the world and think twice about complaining."
Now of course, it is not my intention to spew hackneyed anti-American rhetoric. This is not the case at all. I endeavor only to understand why we in the First World are so far removed from the Third World's problems. And the reason, as can be seen from Boston's "water crisis," is as simple as the chemical composition of water itself. When we are surrounded consistently by all the basic human needs to sustain a healthy life, we automatically assume that our reality must be a reality for everyone else. We cannot fathom suffering because we are not exposed to it. The final problem is thus a matter of exposure.
And so, when I learn about organizations like Amman Imman, I see the solution to the seemingly irreconcilable disconnect between the developed and developing world. When those of us who have proactively inserted ourselves into a life we can only otherwise imagine in a rather distant way, it is only then that we begin to understand the world's dire problems realistically. Organizations—composed of individual people-- that accomplish tangible goals for those in need are, for one, materially relieving human suffering. But more than that, Amman Imman and similar global initiatives that target specific problems in specific areas are bridging the gap between two completely different worlds. And that is certainly something to celebrate.