There are a handful of things that science teachers drill into their students so that they will never forget it. One of those things is that the human body is 70% water. When I was taught this I didn’t think about the complexity of the statement, I thought it just kind of sat there in one big pool of water.
I don’t know. Kid brains are weird. But since then, I have learned all of the very crucial roles that water plays in our bodies, all the way down to each individual cell itself.
First of all, water helps cells keep their shape. The water inside a cell creates pressure that opposes external forces, similar to putting air in a balloon.
Along with cell structure, water also impacts the shape of individual proteins too. Proteins are long chains of the same 20 amino acids (AA). It’s the order of the AAs and the shape of the chain that determine the protein’s function. Water is one driving factor of the protein folding process. The water molecules interact with these long chains, attracting and repelling different pieces of the chain as it folds into its most stable form.
A protein that does not have its correct shape, at best, loses its function or, at worst, can be toxic. Specific misfolded proteins are the cause of mad cow disease!
Water is essential to many cellular processes, but the cell also needs energy to drive these processes. Another scientific tidbit drilled into my brain was where those cells get that energy…
Every cell needs water and it needs fuel to survive. The same is true for the large collection of cells that we call the human body. These two thing are essential to our survival. Jesus recognized this essentiality and listed those two things when telling us what we must do for our neighbor. (Matthew 25:31-46) In fact, they are the first two listed of the corporal works of mercy. Each and every one of us are commanded to feed the hungry and bring drink to the thirsty. These are very basic needs that we take for granted, which makes it is easy to forget that some people don’t have them.
Around this time of year, there are often food drives happening. Most people will look in their pantry and see which cans of food they have in excess or that they can live without. This is a good start, but food banks need food all year long. You don’t have to wait for the holiday food drive, you can take food to your local food bank any time of the year. Here is a helpful website to help you find the one nearest you. https://www.feedingamerica.org/find-your-local-foodbank
Feeding the hungry is something we’ve all probably done at one time or another through these drives, but giving drink to the thirsty might seem a bit more obscure. Although this may be true, it is just as big of a need. A human body can last a lot longer without food, but, on average, only 3 days without water. Finding potable water is one of the major concerns among the homeless. Think about it. If you didn’t have the water in your home, do you know a public place where you could access drinking water? According to the UN, the minimum standard of access to water a human should have a day is 15 liters of water. That’s for refugees and extreme circumstances, but a poll of San Franciscans found that the average person used 158 liters a day, whereas the homeless only used 4 liters. This discrepancy is huge and something we must fix.
A small solution I’ve implemented is carrying waters in my car to give to homeless people I see at intersections. A larger solution we should all be doing is fighting for more public access to water, more accessible drinking fountains and cooling stations. Jesus asks us what we have done for the least of these, and I don’t want to stand before him on my day of judgement and say that I didn’t do all that I could, that I didn’t speak up for them and try to help. It can seem difficult to comprehend when most of us have such easy access to water, but it is a real problem.
I’ll admit that when I think of people without water, I usually think of people in third world countries, people far away that I can’t really help. The truth is that they’re right here, around us every day and it is my job as a Christian to help them. I must feed the hungry and take drink to the thirsty. This week is Thanksgiving where most of us will eat way more food than we need and drink way more drink than our bellies want. While we gather around our table with family, I hope that you will pray with me. First of all, say a prayer of thanks. Thank you Lord for providing us with this food and drink so that our bodies may be satisfied. Then I invite you to pray for those who do not have food and drink; pray that God will look out for them and protect them. Then, once the meal is over, it is time for us to put our prayers into action. We must be the hands and feet of Christ and go out into our world and take food and water to those who need it. It takes all of us.
This coming Sunday is the 1st Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas. One of the major parts of our Christmas traditions is gift giving. We give to our families, our coworkers, and our friends. This Advent I invite you to take the time to give to others, maybe those you don’t know as well. For the next 3 weeks, I will be continuing to write about the rest of the corporal works of mercy, the ways Jesus instructed us to give and to serve all of his people. I hope that you will read them and truly consider what concrete ways we can each be the hands and feet of Christ. During this Advent season, leading up to Christmas, I hope I can give you some ideas of how we can all give to those who truly need it.