I Am Waters

Today is 06.06.2020

The Inspiration

I was headed toward my children’s school in Houston and was stopped at a red light in a heavily trafficked intersection. A woman, apparently homeless, was walking in between the cars. I assumed she was asking for money. She knocked on the window of the pick-up truck in front of me. I saw the driver’s arm reach out to the woman, handing her a half-filled bottle of juice.

The woman took the bottle of juice from the driver of the truck, mouthing “thank you” with a smile. I watched her as she proceeded toward me, clearly trying to reach me before the light turned green. I quickly gathered some change for her, and lowered my window, in anticipation of her approach. Before I could hand her the money, she caught me off guard by asking, “Do you have some water?” I repeated her request back to her for confirmation; “You want water?” She smiled and said, “Yes, please. I just want water.”

I reached across to the passenger seat and grabbed the 32 oz water bottle I had just filled with fresh spring water before leaving my house. She smiled from ear to ear holding the fresh bottle and said, “Wow, thank you!” The light turned green and I drove off, taking the woman’s smile with me.

For the remainder of the drive, and the rest of the day, I could not stop thinking about the woman’s very simple, yet unusual request. I had spent a large portion of my early adult life living and working in various cities and countries: Brussels, Paris, Milan, Hamburg, Marrakesh, and New York, to name a few.

My urban life was spent as a part of the larger general public of those cities: walking the streets, taking subways, taxis and buses. Never once had I been asked for water…cigarettes and money, yes, but not water. That woman had struck a chord within me. It only remained for me to identify the tune.

I imagined what that woman’s life was like, given her day-to-day struggles with being homeless. As I reflected back to my experiences photographing the homeless and spending days at a time on the streets with them, one of the things that stood out for me most was the lack of the basic necessities that we take for granted: food, clothing and most importantly, water.

When you are homeless, you don’t have access to clean running water unless you are in a shelter. After spending consecutive days on the streets, I still looked presentable enough to get the key at a gas station bathroom, or enter a coffee house for a cup of water.

The homeless that have been on the streets for a longer time look and smell rough and are rejected. They are left to begging store proprietors and passersby for water or worse yet, trespassing onto private property to access a water spigot or hose.

I proceeded to lunch that day with my son. While waiting for our food order we went to the restroom to wash our hands. As I held my hands under the tap rinsing the soap off, an idea spontaneously popped into my head, linking my encounter with the homeless woman from the day before and what I already knew from my photographic time on the streets.

I knew I needed to “Bring water to the homeless” and not just any water, but water with special messages delivered by powerful words such as Love, Faith, Gratitude, and Peace. These words may be the only source of inspiration for a person on the street. My goal is to fill the hearts, minds, and bodies of all of the women, children, and men who don’t have access to life’s most basic necessities.

- Elena Davis