The World does pass through the bookstore, and last week Africa made an appearance. A young man came browsing, so fresh and sunny that I was compelled to ask him his story. Turns out that at 22 (fresh indeed!), Seth Maxwell is President of The Thirst Project (a title that he still finds faintly startling). A billion people worldwide try to survive without clean water: in its 2-1/2 short years of life The Thirst Project has raised over $300,000 to complete 5 well-water projects in Ethiopia, 3 in Uganda, 1 in Niger, and Seth was just back from their latest effort in Swaziland. That’s 34,000 rural lives dramatically improved.
Let’s see…uh…22, 21, 20…he was 19 1/2 when he and 8 buddies started this? You can hardly help thinking…what was I doing at that age? I was in college too, but my spare time was spent at Love-ins and Janis Joplin concerts. It’s true I joined the crowds at the Berkeley Free Speech protests and the civil rights sit-in at the San Francisco Sheraton Palace Hotel, but the current of the 60′s that caught me swirled towards Rishikesh, India rather than Selma, Alabama. Who knows where Seth thought he might be pointed those few years ago, but standing on a street corner handing out bottles of water to raise money for what he thought was a one-off good work, he got grabbed up in a wave that swirled him to Swaziland instead. See what that looks like here (click to download pdf).
A few days later, another shiny spirit stopped at our counter. Irresistible smile, glorious halo of curls, eyes that sent out sparks of light. Again, I simply had to know. My question turned her from snooping the New Nonfiction section and she replied, “Well, I came in to see if maybe you were carrying my book, A Princess Found “. As it turned out, we didn’t have it (our jewel box size is enchanting, but it is the size of a jewel box). And so I had the pleasure of Sarah Culberson’s charm as she explained the surprise of where she started and where she has found herself. Adopted, raised by a loving family in West Virginia – when she finally came to be curious about her birth roots she found herself stepping through the looking glass into the very other world of war-savaged Sierra Leone. She carries royal blood, and is returning an unexpected harvest from the wild oats of her father’s youth, sown so far afield. Her Kposowa Foundation is building a school and digging wells for fresh, clean water for the chiefdom of Bumpe.
The only extremely faint silver lining to the terrorism situation is that now some might actually have a slightly better grasp of where Niger, Swaziland or Sierra Leone are than perhaps Selma, Alabama or Morgantown, West Virginia. The currents swirl and you never know where you’ll end up…including here, talking to us in the bookstore, who are so interested to find out what’s your story.
P.S. Water, water! These stories have got me haunted by Joni Mitchell’s sidereal version of “Cool Water”.
[Ed: It has been brought to my attention that the title of this post may be misleading. I ask you how it is that people came to be so thirsty.