Don’t you hate it when you run out of gas? Driving along, willing yourself to the next station, a sputter, a shake, then nothing but rolling in silence. This morning, I met a young man who was “hating it” very much. On my way to work, I noticed a truck in the middle of a lane of traffic, hazard lights flashing, passenger wide-eyed, but no driver, and no help. Looking up the Glenstone overpass above I-44, I saw the culprit. He must have been in high school, sweatpants and a hooded shirt served as his sole defense against the blustering wind and snow that pelted this distressed figure. Gas can in hand; he jogged along the road in a miserable posture. He breathed with relief as he took my invitation for a ride, shaking off the cold. We filled up his gas can, drove back to his truck, and he was back in action within moments. A mere gallon of fuel made the difference between arriving at school warm and on time, and running through the mornings bitter cold, stranded in traffic.

For this young man, that gallon of gas was a life saver. No different in volume or energy than any of the dozens of gallons burned through already this month, yet, this gallon was special. This gallon brought him out of an unfortunate situation and set him right back on track. If you were smart, you spent yesterday bundled and tucked away inside a cozy place, reading and drinking something warm. If you were like the majority of us, you spent at least some portion of the day, en route from car door to front door and back again, experiencing the soaking, unrelenting rainfall that graced our part of the country for the greater part of the day. That storm, that bought our region such a wonderful, slow, and rejuvenating rain, that soaked into our soil and filled our lakes and ponds, that set trickling streams to tantrums, that storm was our gallon of gas. We’ve been in a time of desperate need. Our tank has been hovering near “E” for months and months and we needed that rain. It is now that we can breathe a bit easier while images of soaked soils and overflowing impoundments dance in our heads (well, not quite overflowing). It is now that we can prove our lesson learned.

My guess is that it will be some time before this young man allows his gas tank to hit “E” again. Armed with experience and new perspective, he will at least closely monitor his gas consumption, if not reduce it to conserve that last precious gallon. Imagine if he had driven off to school, on only the gallon of gas, passing by station after station, until he had run dry again. Instead, I watched him pull straight into the nearest pump and correct the error made.

With water it is not so easy. We cannot pay to refill our reservoirs, or run and grab a rainstorm in a pinch. We are at the mercy of the climate, an ever increasingly fickle provider. A good course of action is to conserve what we have now for the times when we don’t have at all. While there is allowance for a great deal of basking in the wonder and relief that a rainstorm can bring to a drought stricken land, we mustn’t lose our head. To forget the lessons we’ve learned; of saving our rainwater for a not so rainy day, of counting every drop as it passes from our tap to our drain, of showing those around us how our water is clear and precious; would be a certain step toward further hardships in times to come. Enjoy the rain and the fresh water it brings, but remember that the rain is not owed to us by anyone and it is our responsibility to be a steward of the resources that we have.

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