Saturday, July 14, 2007

Walking on the wild side of ideas

A fishing column with little to do with fish.....

With thoughts of rivers in my mind and a bottle of water in my hand, I decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway Monday afternoon.
It’s usually a beautiful drive to the cabin, and the sky was full of cottonball clouds puffed up against a cerulean background, a perfect day for taking photographs.
I had a few hours to kill.
Why not sail along with the dips and rolls of the two-lane scenic roller-coaster highway, drink in the sweet summer air and catch a few brook trout at Graveyard Fields?These are things I take for granted.
The higher into the clouds I drove, the darker the clouds became. A light mist sprinkled the car’s windshield.
My photogenic clouds began to lose their luster and by the time I hit above 3,000 feet, the sky was gray as a dull rock. The clouds kept spitting on my car with a steady, indifferent drizzle.I gulped some of the bottled water. I expected the rain to get worse so the day’s flyfishing, which included a fair hike into the valley where the trout were, would be ruined.
I like comfort.Where I was headed is rainforest wet, with 70 inches or more precipitation a year. Riding high into the clouds, I was as surrounded by water as if in a pool.
Everything was wet.These also is something I tend to expect and take for granted.It’s not like this everywhere, though. There are places, I had been reminded Sunday, where life’s most precious requirement is rapidly dwindling or gone. There are once mighty rivers in this world that have all the depth of spit on a rock.
So what? What can one person do about it?This has nothing to do with flyfishing and everything about caring about others. The story of Ryan Hreljac is inspiring: As a first grade student in Canada about 10 years ago, Ryan learned from his teacher that there were children dying in Africa because there was no clean water to drink.
Ryan did not think that was right.So, the little boy in Canada saved his money. After four months, he had $70. Ryan kept doing household chores to help support nonprofits like WaterCan and Free the Children.Ryan never stopped.
Today, his little effort has swollen to a million-dollar organization — Ryan’s Well Foundation. ( date, the foundation has helped pay for 266 wells in 12 countries serving 435,343 people in Africa.That’s nearly a half-million human beings.
That’s awesome.That’s the difference one person can make.I feel puny.
I thought about Ryan as I gulped the last of my bottled water. I climbed higher into the clouds while the insolent drizzle washed over the mountains.
Water is just one battle in the war against world suffering. The United Nations calculated that if the developed nations’ population spent just 0.7 percent of their incomes, more than 500 million people could be lifted out of poverty and 300 million would no longer suffer from hunger.
The lives of more than 30 million children under the age of five would be saved. The Millennium Development Goals include eradicating poverty and hunger, fighting diseases like malaria and AIDS, reducing child mortality and promoting primary education.
That seems like a big piece of pie to bite into. This was all too much to swallow at once as I searched for a break in the clouds, a tiny slice of blue with perhaps a ray of sun peeking through.
I was ready to catch trout. I finally caught a couple, lost a couple and then left my fly in the trees as the light went out. Life is good in the mountains of western North Carolina.
And then I paused. It is not this good in some other places, I thought, but I am just one person.
And what can just one person do?

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