Be Like Water

This is another in the Creating Cultures of Generosity–One Story at a Time series…..Be Like Water  by Laurel Amabile

Be like water

run deep run clear

fill any space to its own dimensions

respond to the moon, to gravity

change colors with the light

hold your temperature longer than the surrounding air

take the coast by storm

go under ground

bend light

be the one thing people need, even when they’re


eat boulders, quietly

be a universal solvent.

                                                       ~Kendra Ford*

In Kendra Ford’s lovely poetic imagery, we are being invited to be like water, to be a universal solvent.

A solvent is a substance in which another substance is dissolved, forming a solution.  Solvents explain things and change things.  Water is considered a “universal solvent,” for it is a powerful and life-sustaining necessity, as is change.

Being a stewardship leader and fundraiser–whether in a paid or volunteer capacity–is as challenging as it is rewarding.  It is easy to get discouraged in the face what are sometimes overwhelming financial needs of the organization and the effects of a slow economic recovery.   It is vital for stewardship leaders and those raising the funds for congregations and other organizations to maintain a strong internal commitment to the mission and values.  This means a good measure of self-care and centering on the part of the individual to sustain positive energy and momentum for the work.

As a stewardship leader, when I need to find my center, to focus my thoughts, or to solve a problem, my tendency is to seek out a body of water—a flowing river, a lake, the ocean—and let its power and natural beauty wash over me, inspire me and change me.

My annual pilgrimage is to Diana’s Baths in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The sounds of the flowing water are so loud they drown out the noises of the people who gather there.

The flow of the water down the mountainside is so powerful it has smoothed the stone surface, carving out the rounded “baths” in which you could sit (if you could stand the temperature!)

Years back I attended the Mountain School for Congregational Leadership in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.

Late one evening during the leadership school, all willing and able participants were loaded into vans and driven to an unnamed location for an annual ritual.  I was packed into the back seat of the van wondering when the long and somewhat nauseating drive on the winding back roads would ever end.

When we arrived at our destination, we were unloaded and gathered in the dark parking lot for instructions from our faculty leaders.

We were to line up, with our hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us or to link arms.

We were told to close our eyes, move slowly forward with the group, to remain silent, and feel for any signals to pause or slow down as we navigated down two dozen stone stairs and uneven slopes.

We had to trust our leaders, the only ones who knew where we were going and the only ones with flashlights, there in the pitch dark.

The pace was excruciatingly slow for me, for in front of me was a man with an old leg injury who really was at risk of falling.  This man usually used a cane to get around, but here in this line up, those of us around him were his support.

There were times when the line seemed to pause for minutes on end and with no explanation.  As we moved along the rough and invisible terrain, I was flooded with thoughts and emotions.  I was frustrated to the point I wanted to scream.

I was irritated and began thinking of how I might climb over those in front of me, grab the flashlight, and get things moving, since the leaders were obviously not able to keep it going.  There was a point when I seriously thought I needed to detach myself from this nightmare and fumble back to the van and wait in peace for the crowd to return.

The only things that held me in the line-up were

1) the man needing support in front of me,

2) my curiosity about the outcome, and

3) the sound of rushing water calling me onward.

Finally we were moving closer and closer to the thundering water.  I could feel the spray in the air around me. Then I felt the nudge and opened my eyes.

We were under a giant rock with an enormous waterfall flowing out in front of us—called Dry Falls.

It was awe-inspiring, with a force that generated its own light in the darkness.  Even if we were free to talk, we were speechless with wonder.

Finally the group began to move, and we walked back along the pathway in silence, eyes opened and forever changed by the experience we had shared.

That is the nature of leadership.  We are called to be like water, be a universal solvent.   We must cast the vision, inspire trust among the followers (though they may grumble), and lead people along the pathway that is often hard to navigate.

The solution is in the process of change and power in the transformation. Be like water; run deep, run clear; be a universal solvent.  May it be so.



May we be open to the experience of listening and exploring new ideas, to be a part of something much greater than ourselves, and by engaging in this caring community, be transformed.   Blessed Be.



The reading Be Like Water was published in a meditation manual How We Are Called published by Skinner House Books.  2003.  It is used with both the author’s and publisher’s permission.

Skinner House Books:

The Reverend Kendra Ford is the minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Exeter, NH:

The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center is located in the mountains of Western North Carolina: