How I discovered water is my WHY…
The Christmas that Inspired it All
My grandmother was my best friend in the world and some of my best memories are of spending Christmas morning with her and the rest of my amazing family. In 1996 that all changed with her leaving us, and for the first time ever I’m going to admit (on the internet of all places) that my Christmas spirit died that year along with her.
For several years I put on my mask and acted like I was excited and really couldn’t wait until Christmas, but without her it just wasn’t the same. At the same time I was struggling through this I had several other major life events (all positive in hindsight) and several interactions with great people (that are outside the scope of this post if I’m going to have any chance at all of keeping your attention) that re-shaped my beliefs and further changed the way I viewed the world and how little I care about how the world views me.
From 2007 to 2011 I lived in TN, then Seattle, then Maui and my one trip home to the family farm in West Virginia each year was for Christmas. Each November I would begin to stress about what I could possibly buy each member of my family for Christmas that they actually needed, didn’t have, or someone else wasn’t going to buy them, and just how the hell I was going to discretely get it under the tree from 4,600 miles away. Being the pragmatic perfectionist I am, I just couldn’t bring myself to arbitrarily select something they “might really like” so I spent hours making lists and worrying about what I could possibly get everyone. This just perpetuated my dislike for this not-so-holy-anymore day that has become more about materialism than spirituality.
So, the next couple of years I informed the family that my gift to everyone would be an amazing Christmas dinner. I woke at 6:00am and started the day with fresh oysters and home made remoulade, moved to fresh shrimp, then on to a bone-in prime rib with all the trimmings, and finished with a signature roasted pear foster that I somehow made up on a plane over the Pacific. The meal and service was a hit but I found myself opening gifts from family members that I did not buy anything for and it felt rotten. I felt rotten. This feeling further strengthened my belief that Christmas sucked and made me feel like even more of a Scrooge and this went on for a couple of years.
All I want for Christmas is my family, a good meal and the absence of stress that comes from commercial Christmas! My Christmas meal has become a tradition which feels really good and is my favorite part of the holidays now. Finally, in 2012 I decided that I was going to accept my own position on gifts and not give a damn what anyone else thought. Well, that rarely works for me with family so on Christmas Eve I laid in my bed filling out personalized Christmas cards to each person feeling like a total failure. In an attempt to salvage my dignity I decided to do something, but what could I do, it was Christmas Eve.
After letting go of the fear of my family thinking I was a cheap bastard who didn’t care about them I decided to buy them something in alignment with what I thought Christmas should be all about. To me, Christmas should be a time where we all act like Christ (if we’re going to celebrate him then let’s act like him) not like a bunch of self-centered materialistic “sheeple” lead by our televisions. I decided I would buy each of them something indirectly that was more Christlike than the crap I could pile into a buggy at Walmart… Goats!
That’s right, after all of this self-abuse my little brain came to the conclusion that the best thing I could buy my family for Christmas was goats. Not goats that we would ever see, pet or milk, but goats that would be raised and distributed by Oxfam International in developing countries. Goats that would literally change the lives of the recipients (unlike tins of popcorn or a wall-mounted singing bass we would unwrap here in the US).
I’m still not sure if anyone understood or appreciated that but it really made me feel good about Christmas for the first time in years and I focused more on the people and experience than anything else. This was a major pivot point in my life that came out of nowhere.
By November of 2015 I had read enough books and met enough wonderful people to be even more of a weirdo that all of a sudden I was asking myself “What can I do that has a greater impact this year?”. I sponsor a family each year through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Virginia that deserve a Christmas they cannot afford and I buy farm animals in my family’s honor but I still felt like there was more I could be doing. I asked myself what was the most troubling problem in the world and how can I help address it at Christmas?
After thinking this through and doing some research on “The Googs” (credit to Angie Darrell for that one) it seemed clear to me that fresh water was the most fundamental problem we face as a global community.
As a result of that thinking I began my research and I was amazed at just how sheltered from the real world I was as an American. I’ll leave you with these facts and a video from Matt Damon, founder of Water.org and I’ll see you below….
Are you surprised? Are you moved to take action?
I sure as hell was and every time I take a closer look I feel even more motivated to step in and help my fellow humans. My first step was to shift my Christmas giving from buying goats, cows, rabbits, and chickens to helping Water.org by donating in honor of my family in lieu of wasting money on gifts that REALLY had no meaning after these facts sunk in. Here is my Christmas letter to my family in 2015:
My next step is to take this beyond Christmas and that story is still unfolding for me.
My 100 Year Vision for This World We Share…
I have a vision of what I want the world to look like in 100 years. Now, I obviously won’t be here to see it through and can’t create all of the change I envision on my own but I DO BELIEVE I CAN MAKE ONE HELL OF A DIFFERENCE in the short amount of time I’m here.
There are many problems in this world but I like to think I can simplify them down to one common flaw…inability to accept the fact that our personal beliefs are JUST that; not universal truths. I realize I’ll lose most of my audience here but if you can hang in there with me please do. I challenge you to put your beliefs down for just a few seconds and imagine a world where you are wrong, a world where nobody is “right”, a world where we all respect the views of others and actually embrace diversity instead of fighting it out of fear. Do you think we would have wars, famine, genocide or even borders? What if we could all be a global community of humans that serve one another? What if you looked across the oceans and saw brothers and sisters instead of adversaries and enemies? Do you think 1 in 10 people would be drinking filthy water if we viewed those with differing beliefs as our brethren? Can you imagine the impact developed nations could have on third world countries if we worked together? How many of the other problems that have plagued the world for centuries would disappear if we could think this way?
In the past 12 months I’ve spent a lot of time thinking outside of myself, my community and my country with aspirations to be a global and even universal thinker. I’ll be the first to say that I have a long damn ways to go and I’m not looking for any accolade, but I do want you to know that I’ve challenged every personal and cultural belief I have and I see plenty of room for improvement in how I live my life and how the world around me works. I fully intend to change what I can affect in my short life! I hope you will join me.
I now envision a world where we all realize we are ONE human race and one family, we all have the same rights to life, liberty, and happiness (fuck the pursuit, that’s a limited belief), we are ALL WRONG and no one culture, religion, or race is “right”, we are passionate about our beliefs but we respect others’ beliefs at the same time and rather than kill or try to convert those with differing beliefs we consider their position with genuine interest and an open mind and test our own against them. In this “Corbett Fantasy World” politics would be forced to change to serve the people, religion would create peace not war and the measure of success would be in quality of human life globally not in the amount dollars or natural resources we could control by exploiting others.
I’m not naive enough to believe that this can be achieved in my lifetime, but I do believe that simply changing our beliefs and thinking a couple of degrees today can result in a 2116 trajectory that is worlds apart from where we are today. The unfortunate truth is that our current governments and media are further driving the wedge between humanity, including right here in the Divided States of America. Consider this post my first public attempt at shifting the thinking of only a few who will see the potential of this and try it on for themselves. If enough people think globally then action will result and the world WILL change.
If you made it this far without de-friending me, submitting a “hack this site” request to someone on the deep web, or getting in your car to drive to my house to beat some sense into me, then I congratulate you. These are radical thoughts from a simple West Virginia farm boy. It’s hard to imagine this world I’m outlining and really easy to reject it. This farm boy has met thousands of people and read hundreds of books over the last 10 years and has really changed the lens he views the world through. Thanks for reading my thoughts and I hope you at least take 5 minutes out of today to consider this world I envision to see if it’s something you would like to take part in creating. Water is my contribution…what will yours be?
So, What Am I Going to do About It?
Until today, only the people unfortunate enough to be stuck on a 90 minute phone call or to have shared a campfire with me have heard these thoughts. This blog post is my first real public glimpse into what matters most to me.
For those of you who know me personally, you know that I spend half of my year traveling and most of that time off-grid riding motorcycles, camping, fishing and taking photos of everything within sight. I’ve come to appreciate the simplest aspects of life the most and each day I get more uncomfortable with “normal” because “normal” seems to be deeply flawed to me.
I want to spend the rest of my life traveling and helping others and I believe that in my lifetime the most significant impact I can have is to bring fresh water to as many of the 663 million people (1/10th of the global population) that do not have clean water to drink tomorrow as I possibly can.
My involvement here is incrementally expanding. I’ve already introduced you to my 2 favorite charities. I plan to continue to donate to them and hopefully work hand-in-hand with them at some point to develop small water systems and financing options in target communities. For the longer-term goal of reaching millions with fresh water I have recently been introduced to an inventor of a wind/solar powered desalination plant and other renewable energy technologies that will allow me to scale this solution quickly if I can put the pieces of the puzzle together to get these systems built. This is a massive undertaking that has not been successfully executed by anyone YET so it’s a perfect “blue ocean” project for me. It will take the time and collaboration of many but I’m committed to giving everything I can to make it happen. There will be more posts to come on this.
What Can YOU Do About It?
Below I have listed 2 of my favorite and the most established charities that are making a difference in this space. I encourage you to check them out and if you’re in a position to do so, please donate what you can. I have nothing to gain here other than the knowledge that I helped these great organizations raise capital to change lives.
If what you have read here motivates you and donating isn’t enough please reach out to me to discuss how you can be more involved. I’ll be honest, I have NO clue right now but where there is a will there is a way and it won’t be long before we are on our way to making a difference together.
Love and Clean Water for All!!!