So I’ve reached the finishing line. I washed my hair (and the rest of me!) in a bowl of water for the last time this morning, having heated enough in a kettle to take the chill off. Then I went to collect my last container of water. In fact I only picked up five litres this time because I’m away at the CAFOD retreat this evening and I’d managed to save a bit from yesterday.
I walked back with some of the children heading for our neighbouring primary school, who seem to have been fascinated by it all. All that the parents of one six-year-old could gather from their giggling son on Monday night was that Father Rob had talked about toilets, which he clearly found hilarious. But I hope some got rather more out of the school assembly than that!
To my great surprise, I’ve raised over £1,000 on my Justgiving page, and I gather that another £300 or so has been handed over in cash to the parish this week. So that is one good result of the exercise. Sponsor me here >>
What else to say? What have I learnt along the way? Well, some of it’s pretty obvious: a kilo is a standard unit of measurement, but a kilo weighs more at the end of a mile (sorry, kilometre!) than it does at the beginning; and what (say) twenty kilos might weigh on an empty stomach after a couple of hours in tropical heat is hard to comprehend.
Less obvious to our cosseted consumer culture is the fact that the sky doesn’t fall in if you don’t have a shower every day. You really can get as clean with one litre of water in a basin as with 25 litres in a shower (never mind 70 litres in a bath). No one has complained about the odour of sanctity during the last six days, and I don’t think that’s just a matter of politeness.
But taps bring convenience as well as waste. I reckon that, in addition to the time taken walking a mile or two to get water, I’ve probably had to spend an extra 15-20 minutes per day doing basic ordinary things: everything takes longer and is more complicated, washing, dishwashing, cooking, cleaning. Moreover, the balance is tipped away from recycling: do I want to waste precious water swilling things out?
Above all, though, there’s a recognition that what I take for granted shouldn’t be taken for granted – just as what the world’s poorest take for granted (lack of clean, safe water close at hand) shouldn’t be taken for granted either. So at the end of my week I’m just that little bit more thirsty for change.
About the author: Father Rob Esdaile is parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, Thames Ditton, Surrey. He’s set himself the challenge of living on ten litres of water a day for a week (March 10-16). It’s both a Lenten discipline and a way of supporting CAFOD’s Thirst for change campaign. Read his previous blogs here >>