Reflecting on my purpose… one sip of coffee at a time

Unpopular opinion: Mornings are awesome.

It might sound cliché, but I like to think of each new day as a fresh start, a chance to do things better. Before I can get started on the whole “carpe diem” thing, though, I always need a cup of coffee. A very large, very strong cup of coffee. How in the world did humans ever function without this delectable bean juice? 

On this particular day, I was feeling extra ambitious. “This is going to be MY day,” I thought to myself as I rolled out of bed. “I’ll finally finish that blog post I’ve been putting off, and maybe I can increase our web traffic to an all-time high!” The world felt like my oyster- until I turned on the tap to fill up my coffee pot, that is. 

Out came nothing, not even one drop of water.

“That’s weird,” I thought to myself. I hadn’t received any notification that maintenance would shut the water off, and I knew I didn’t have any outstanding water bills, either. I figured it would come back on in a few hours, so I continued on with my day, sans coffee. Of course, I was a little disappointed, but I kept telling myself that it wasn’t the end of the world. And of course, it wasn’t; by midday, the water came back on!

My reusable water bottle was empty by this point, and I desperately craved a cold glass of water. I live in Texas, after all, and it’s hot here! I rushed to fill up a glass of water only to notice that it looked, smelled, and tasted horrible. Musty, pond-water cocktail, anybody? Uhhh, no thanks! 

I decided to run the water for a bit to try and fix the problem, but the water’s pungent smell persisted. So, my boyfriend and I decided to drive to Walmart to buy a few jugs of water. We needed clean water for so many basic things, after allLess than ten minutes later, we had enough water to last us a few days. “Hallelujah!” I thought to myself, with a coffee cup in hand. It turns out there was a coffee shop right beside Walmart, and I decided I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity to make my day a little better. 

Emelia when she finally got water on Monday!
As you can see, I was extremely happy to get my hands on some fresh water. I never want to take this stuff for granted!

Now, I know enough about water and the world to recognize that my “ordeal” was nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Working in the water realm, I confront harsh realities all of the time. This wasn’t one of them. 

The situation did, however, cause me to reflect on two things: perspective and privilege. 

On perspective

“Things could be A LOT worse,” I told myself all morning, and it was true. Taking a step back from the situation and recognizing this a) made me feel incredibly grateful for my current situation and b) motivated me to get to work. 

The thing is, while things usually could be a lot worse, this doesn’t mean we should become complacent. And the truth is, some things are getting worse. Take, for example, harmful algal blooms; unfortunately, harmful algal blooms are starting to appear in places where they’ve never been observed before, like Thunder Bay, Ontario. This is highly worrisome since some algae (like the blue-green variety) can be extremely toxic and even lethal to dogs and humans. 

I thought of algae as soon as I noticed the water’s foul odour on Monday morning. The presence of blue-green algae can cause water to smell musty, just like mine did that day. Unfortunately, regular water filtration processes aren’t sophisticated enough to remove dangerous toxins from the water just yet. While I’m pretty sure my water wasn’t tainted that day, I also know our water system here in Texas is not immune to something like that happening. Because of this, we have to monitor and prevent the occurrence of blue-green algae as much as possible. 

While Water Rangers doesn’t have a specific protocol for monitoring algae (yet), we encourage our testers to take pictures of suspected algae blooms when they see them. We’re always looking for ways to partner with other organizations and researchers, and these pictures could come in handy one day. 

Algae bloom on the water
Always take pictures of suspected algae blooms!

To me, “perspective” is somewhat of a balancing act. On the one hand, I think it’s important to count our blessings. “It’s not the end of the world,” we can keep telling ourselves, and maybe we’re right. On the other hand, though, I think it’s important to shift perspective when we can and think, “how can we make this better?” When we have the power to make our days, weeks, or even the world even a bit better, I think we should go for it.

On privilege

I want to be clear about something; I recognize that I am lucky to live in North America, where so much of the world’s freshwater resources are located. I’m originally from Canada, which is home to about 20% of the world’s freshwater. The US, too, has a ton of freshwater. Even in a state like Texas, where temperatures rarely dip below 30℃ in the summer, I don’t usually have to worry about accessing water. 

That said, this isn’t a universal experience for all people living in North America

Take, for example, the ongoing First Nations water crisis in Canada. As of June 16th, 2021, there are 51 long-term drinking water advisories on First Nations reserves. Some of these, like in Neskantaga First Nation, have been in place since the mid-1990s. 

That’s not all; in most of North America’s metropolitan areas, bottled water costs no more than a dollar or two per litre. In many First Nations communities, however, bottled water is outrageously expensive. The thought of this crossed my mind more than a dozen times as I was so casually buying my bottled water on Monday. 

Spotlight on Water First

We work with a ton of organizations who are working hard to make a difference. One of these is Water First. Water First partners with Indigenous communities throughout Canada to help solve water challenges, and we are so happy that we can support them in the incredible work they do. 

It’s easy to feel powerless sometimes, especially when some of the problems we face are so big. But, we can all start somewhere. First and foremost, we can learn the extent of what’s going on in our communities, our country, and our world.  

The First Nations water crisis is unacceptable. After all, we need clean water for the most basic of things. 

At Water Rangers, we are committed to working towards truth and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, with a special emphasis on ensuring access to clean water and water knowledge.

Tying it all together: what’s my purpose?

I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time thinking about my “purpose”. Don’t get me wrong, I love working for Water Rangers (we truly have the best team ever), but sometimes I still find myself dreaming about what I want to “be” when I grow up as if I’m not already a full-grown woman. 

This day’s events, however, really made my purpose clear. At the end of the day, I believe that every human’s “purpose” is to serve others, which is precisely what I get to do at Water Rangers. 

We’re tool builders- we create, test, and refine tools that allow almost ANYONE to monitor water quality. These days, as more and more environmental problems emerge, it’s easy to see how people can start to feel powerless, hopeless, and afraid. That’s why I’m proud to be part of an organization that works to empower communities with the tools to make a difference. Water quality monitoring is about so much more than just collecting data; there’s an element of power associated with it, too. Knowledge is power, which we help individuals and communities build every single day. 

To me, mornings always represent new beginnings, and surprisingly, this morning ended up being one of the best ones I’ve had in a while. Sometimes, all we need is a change of perspective to reinvigorate our sense of purpose. We also need to keep in mind the injustices that exist in our communities, countries, and world- after all, what’s the point of a “purpose” if it doesn’t serve others? More than anything, I hope this article encourages you to reflect on your purpose, too. Now… It’s time for another coffee! 

Coffee cup in front of a lake. We recommend this to make Mondays better!
Coffee tastes soooo much better by the water!

Help us keep the movement going!

Water Rangers is a not-for-profit, social enterprise. This means we rely on grants, sponsorships, donations, and the sale of our testkits to help keep us going. For more information on how you can support the movement (there are LOTS of ways), check out our fundraising page.