I grew up on the coast, and one of the first things I learned as a child is that the water is not only your friend, it’s also your enemy.
It’s strong and unforgiving and will not allow any mistakes. But it’s also soft and friendly and peaceful.
These were the thoughts in the back of my mind when I first visited the Mississippi river in Missouri. It looks so peaceful, so friendly. Almost like it’s smiling at you. And I made the mistake to think it’s ‘just’ a river. It wasn’t an ocean, so it couldn’t be that bad right?
“So, in two seconds, away we went, a sliding down the river, and it did seem so good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river and nobody to bother us.” – Mark Twain (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)
But then I talked to Steve. A retired man that lives in a small Missouri town on the Mississippi. ‘I’ve lived here for 37 years’, he told me about five minutes after I first met him. ‘And my house floods almost every year.’ There was no sadness in his eyes as he told me this. He was just stating a fact.
Water is your friend. It brings you joy and hope. We wouldn’t be able to live without it. But it’s also your enemy if you don’t pay attention.
I couldn’t help myself but ask Steve the question he’s probably been asked many times over the years. ‘Why don’t you move elsewhere?’
He didn’t have to think long about his answer. ‘Because I love this town and the people that live here. And this town would have never existed without that river.’