As a proud Cleveland transplant, I have great admiration for our city, especially the lovely Lake Erie, which provides our water. I’d never really given much thought into logistics of how that happens until I recently read a book about the tunnels that were drilled under Lake Erie by immigrants to bring clean water to the city in the early 20th century. They had to go miles from shore and 200 feet below Lake Erie in order to find water that wouldn’t make the citizens of Cleveland sick since the shoreline was extremely polluted.
This was a dangerous job that didn’t pay well, and many men lost their lives in the tunnels. The largest disaster took place in 1916 when workers hit a pocket of gas that caused an explosion killing 21 people; however, local African American inventor Garrett Morgan used an early version of the gas mask to rescue some men. Unfortunately, he was not given the credit he was due at the time.
As a person who lives less than a mile from Lake Erie, I was surprised and saddened to learn this piece of our history. It leaves me wondering how my habits of consumption and disposal of waste today put pressure on the planet and affect the lives of workers around the world that I may not see.In today’s gospel, Jesus reminds us of God’s abundance and encourages us to honor and share it with those around us:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful…
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”
As co-creators and stewards of the abundance of natural resources that God has provided us, may we break forth from lives of consumerism to honor the Earth, the rights of workers, and future generations by lessening our desires for material goods and delighting in God’s abundance this Lent.
- Where does the water in my community originate? What stories can I learn about this source of God’s abundance?
- How do my habits of consumption put pressure on the planet and create harsh working/living conditions for populations around the globe (i.e. e-waste, online shopping, farm worker rights)? How can I alter these habits during Lent?
Brenna Davis is educational resource and environmental justice coordinator for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. She graduated from Boston College in 2010 and served in Cleveland as a Jesuit Volunteer. She previously taught theology, coached cross country, and served as main office coordinator at Saint Martin de Porres, Cleveland’s Cristo Rey High School. During her time there she was the self-proclaimed assistant to the director of facilities in all sustainability initiatives on campus. She is a certified spiritual director and a Cuyahoga County Master Recycler.