A shortage of drinking water is a serious and growing world problem. El Salvador is one of the countries where lack of water is already a serious issue. Here is a story, based on a real incident, about people appreciating water. Next time you take a drink of water, take a shower, or pull on freshly washed clothing, think of the people in this story.
Catarina and her younger sister walked barefoot down the dusty road. Little Evelyn walked slowly, lagging behind Catarina. Every few steps, Evelyn complained, “I’m thirsty! And I’m hungry!”
“Then the sooner we get to the comedor the better,” Catarina said. She stopped and waited for Evelyn to catch up, then took her sister’s hand. “It’s not much further now, you know.”
The comedor was a small building where food was served to the children of the town. Many of the families were very poor and often did not have enough food. At the comedor, or dining room, the children came to eat a healthy meal each day. The comedor was run by Hermana, or Sister, Amelia.
When the comedor was in sight, Evelyn said again, “I’m hungry!”
This time, however, she laughed and rubbed her belly. She loved coming to the comedor once the walk was over.
Other children were already there, but Catarina saw that no one was eating yet. Hermana Amelia stood outside, wiping flour from her hands and talking with Samuel, one of her helpers. Hermana Amelia seemed worried, and they both kept looking down the road.
That is when she noticed the girls. “Hola, Caterina! Hola, Evelyn! We are making the pupusas** for you right now, but the water truck hasn’t come yet.”
There were no faucets, sinks, hoses, or drinking fountains at the comedor. All the water they needed to cook food, to drink and to clean up had to come by truck. Twice a week, a truck arrived carrying a large tank filled with water. But not this week.
Since the water truck had not come when it usually did, they had used up all the water they had gotten last time. Hermana Amelia and her workers were not able to prepare food or clean the tables. It was very hot, and everyone was sweaty, hungry and very, very thirsty.
Some children, like Evelyn, fretted and whined. Others played, but their play was subdued and slow. Catarina sat in the shade cast by the comedor with other girls, but little was said. They felt sleepy in the heat of the day. There was nothing exciting or particularly happy about the comedor today.
All that changed in an instant when Samuel announced, “Here comes the water truck!”
Whining children began shouting. Worried adults started laughing and came running. Those sitting on the ground jumped up to peer down the road. Children left their play and ran to meet the truck with the big tank of longed-for water.
“Get the buckets!” Samuel’s voice bellowed over all the noise.
Everyone scattered to grab pails, jugs, and bowls—anything that would hold the precious water. The truck backed up slowly, and Catarina watched as a huge pipe came down from the water tank. From everywhere, children and adults came running and skidding in the dirt, nearly knocking each other down to reach the truck on time. They did not want to waste any water.
And then they heard the swoosh of the water as it rushed down the pipe.
A cheer went up as buckets were quickly placed under the pipe. Evelyn clapped her little hands and jumped up and down.
Catarina cupped her hand under the stream of water and drank some.
Samuel grinned at her and said, “Thank God for this water!”
Catarina noticed Hermana Amelia making a Sign of the Cross in a silent thank-you prayer.
Some of the bigger girls carried buckets of water on their heads to deliver it to the comedor. They laughed with delight when some of it splashed down into their hot shoulders and arms.
Two small children struggled to carry one little bucket between them, giggling the whole time. Catarina lugged a pail and Evelyn solemnly carried a bowl of water into the comedor. Samuel and other adults ran back and forth with buckets from the truck to the building and back again until all the water had been emptied from the truck.
The meal was quickly prepared, to the sounds of song and giggles and much banging of spoons and cups. Catarina, with Evelyn at her side, sat with the other children as Samuel led them all in a prayer. Their heads bowed, Catarina squeezed Evelyn’s hand to remind her to keep silent.
It was quiet only for that moment, for the thankfulness they gave God in prayer spilled out like water from the pipe. The water had brought them life again, and it was time to laugh and celebrate.
**PUPUSAS: cornmeal mass stuffed with farmer’s cheese, refried beans, or fried pork fat.