While examining Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise” speech with my students, I was attracted to the story he narrates of a ship lost at sea.
“A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal, “Water, water; we die of thirst!” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are. ” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.”
As my students focused on Washington’s comparison between the distressed ship and black and white races after the Civil War, I reflected on some of the places I have cast my bucket in search of water.
I often attempted to cast my bucket in the future. I eventually realized that there is only hope for water in the future. A hope that quieted my thirst with visions of my bucket teeming over with fresh sparkling water but never actually provided me with anything that I could consume. When my bucket returned from the future it was still empty and I was left screaming “Water, water; I die of thirst”.
I tried to cast my bucket down in the past. The dilemma here is that I’ve already drunk the water in the past and only memories of it exist. Similar to hope, these memories lessened my thirst by reminding me of times when my bucket was overflowing with water. The memories are precious but when my bucket returned from the past it was still empty and I continued screaming “Water, water; I die of thirst”.
The next futile effort was to cast my bucket down to other people. The trouble here is everyone has his or her own bucket to fill. If someone fills my empty bucket with all their water, now they are empty and dying of thirst. I don’t want to be responsible for their dying of thirst so I refill their bucket. Once again leaving me with an empty bucket screaming “Water, water; I die of thirst”.
Like the distressed ship in Washington’s example, I finally listened and started casting my bucket down where I am. I cast it in the present and it continuously returns filled with sparkling water. I only needed to open my eyes and see all that God provides within each moment. I needed to understand that “our appointment with life is in the present moment. If we do not have peace and joy now, when will we have peace and joy?”(Thich Nhat Hanh)
One thought on “Cast Down Your Bucket”
One of the biggest joys in life is having the faith to know that no matter what struggles or “lack of water” gets put in your way, the power of God and the passion and love that you share with him to teach, redeem, heal, or nourish others relinquishes your thirst.