This pot and hanging ladle above it is a regular sight in Thailand where I learned to cook and rest. This particular one is in a pottery village in which I enjoyed spending time as a potter. The men and women of the village kindly welcomed me in among them and let me make pots alongside them for a season of my life. We communicated deeply but never understood each other’s language. We sat for long hours making pots side by side exchanging smiles and small kindnesses – a cup of tea, a glass of water, a tool needed for a pot which had gone slightly off center. We did not speak Thai or English but we spoke fluent pottery and kindness.
One of my friends in that village had this pot and ladle outside their front door. It was like a million others of its kind and when I lived in Haiti there too they had a version of this technology in which porous clay pots naturally cool the water by letting some water seep through the unglazed pot and, while evaporating on the outside of the pot, cool the contained water naturally. The ladle above the pot is a wooden ladle handle with a coconut as its scoop. It sells in the market for $1.
This pot and spoon sits on a ledge by the front door of a house. It is an act of hospitality to guests and passers by who may be thirsty in such a hot climate. It is also a symbol of welcome. The homeowner fils the pot with fresh, clean water every day and washes the ladle.
What I love most about this life-practice is that the first thing the homeowner does in the morning after their prayers is fill this water pot. Early in the day the homeowner is thinking about the people who will walk by. One of the first acts of the day is done for people who come to visit and for people who pass by.
Stewardship of a person’s assets and stewardship of a cathedral is not about managing what we have but about a disposition of love and care for those who will pass by or come to our lives. We, each of us, have the capacity to fill our metaphorical clay pots with water to cool and soothe the people around us. It is a practice which emerges from a personal practice of daily prayer and centering. Sadly, in our culture it is rare. And it is as easy to spot as it is easy to notice as absent. There are fancier, more elegant pots than this one. But they are often empty of the cooling water which makes all the difference.
The question is not how big your pot is, or how beautiful, or how colorful (the most elegant pots are not going to allow the water to leak out and so cool.) The question is wether or not you are the kind of person (or are working to become the kind of person) whose first thought in the morning is filling a water pot to soothe the suffering of a stranger.