Drinking from the Spring

I grew up in northern Wisconsin on the dairy farm my grandparents created after settling on land that before their arrival had been a white pine forest, home to the Ojibwe Indians. My paternal aunts and uncles all had farms within a mile or two of our own. My grandfather, along with the other settlers, founded a church, built a one-room school, and formed a milk co-op. Because they worked together they were able to survive in the inhospitable climate to which they had emigrated.

The farm of one of my uncles was bordered by a dirt road that wound around a small spring-fed lake. Up the road a bit was a path that led through some trees down to the lake. To the left of it, nestled into the hillside and shaded by an oak tree, was the spring itself. At some point a wooden box had been built around it so water could collect there before spilling down into the lake. Tied to the box by a piece of cord was an old, white enameled tin cup, put there so one could drink from the spring without having to lie on the ground. The handle was bent and some of the enamel was chipped away, but, other than that, was in fine shape.

I loved dipping the cup into the water and pulling it out, overflowing, before lifting it to my mouth, feeling the cool, hard edge of the rim against my lips; smelling the freshness of the water as it cooled the air flowing into my nostrils as I inhaled, ready to drink. It was water like no other—fresh, pure, and cold—even on the hottest days of summer. Any time we visited my aunt and uncle, I’d try to get our dad to stop at the spring so we could drink from the tin cup. When I got old enough to drive, I would go there by myself and sit under the oak tree watching the water gurgle out of the spring while I held the cup in my hands, imagining all the people who had drunk from it over the years.

How considerate it was of the person who had tied the cup there so that anyone who was nearby and thirsty could stop by and drink. The settlers and the native people before them valued the spring because it provided for them that which was needed to quench their thirst; that which was needed for them to keep going when it was hot and they still had work to do or miles yet to journey. They safeguarded that spot and kept it available to everyone.

Faith is like that water, ceaselessly flowing out of the earth, awaiting those who are thirsty for a deeper relationship with God to stop and drink. And just as the spring was available to all, so must the faith that has been put into our care be available to all—friend and stranger alike.

So, come, lift the cup and drink.  Then fill the cup again and offer it to someone else. We, none of us, need ever be thirsty again.




  1. If you belong to a faith tradition, how do you contribute to it being healthy and accessible to others?
  2. In what ways are you the tin cup?



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