Thirst has renewed my love for books and for charity: water


My greatest sorrow of high school is not reading more out of school and not feeding my love for words and captivating stories. As a child, my perfect weekend was biking to the Kent District Library and pouring over books for hours until it was inevitably time to go home. Lost in the rush of schoolwork and required reading lists, I forgot that, at my core, I am a reader.

Despite my recent falling out with books though, there I was, eagerly clicking “pre-order” on Amazon for an autobiography, of all things. Days later, much to my delight, my package arrived as I gleefully tore through the paper to uncover the jerry-can yellow cover of Thirst. For the next couple days, I can safely say that the book did not leave my side as I read it every moment I could.

Thirst is the story of Scott Harrison’s life, the author and founder of “charity: water,” told from his perspective. His story captivated and completely overwhelmed me with the sheer power of his words and his experiences.

The list of all of Harrison’s escapades through his early life goes on and on, until seeing the devastation in Africa sparked a passion in him for clean water projects. While water may be a common occurrence and simply a refreshing drink for those in first world countries, Harrison quickly caught on to the fact that water is much more than that. Water is independence, dignity, health, and more. Throwing himself into the unknown with only his passion and charismatic personality, he founded “charity: water,” right then and there.

His vision for “charity: water” was to share the message of joy, hope, and love as more and more people became empowered through access to clean water. In Harrison’s own words, he wanted to “build an optimistic, imaginative, hopeful organization that people would donate to because they felt empowered and inspired.” As an irrepressible optimist, every opportunity and area in need was a new adventure for both Harrison and the charity; all they had to do was say “yes.” And they did. Every time, for every person.

This book isn’t just about the charity’s success, however; it also recounts the times they epically failed and the times when they were literally scraping the bottom of the barrel. Every nitty, gritty detail of Harrison’s journey is in the book, truly inserting the reader into his life, his hardships, and his endless passion for spreading joy.

Being able to additionally track Harrison’s journey by flipping through the few pages of pictures inserted halfway through the book gave new life and reality to his words. Seeing the changed lives and the pure happiness apparent on people’s faces lifted my spirits while I read. That’s one of the beautiful things about non-fiction books; every smile, every loss, every joyful moment is all real.

Something I loved about Thirst was that Harrison made sure to include stories from both sides of the equation: the donors and their stories and also the people whose fortunes had been reversed. It was the generous donations from fundraisers started by seven-year-olds whose biggest dream was to help people get clean water; it was the stories of villages where receiving the gift of clean water was one of life and pure happiness.

Despite the roller coaster of highs and lows throughout his journey, I found myself smiling more times than not as I progressed through Harrison’s story. His passion for people and zest for life was so infectious that it fanned the flame in my own soul for clean water projects. After finishing the book, I inspired to just pick up, leave home, and minister to people halfway across the world, just to experience the type of joy Harrison talked so highly about. 

I think that’s the mark of an incredible book. It’s that feeling when you finish reading and all is said and done; but you feel strongly like conquering the world is within your reach and all you have to do is say “yes.” Thirst exemplified this in every way.