Friday, August 10, 2012

Cast Down your Buckets!

My son had to write a paper for a history class he was in. He asked for my help, which I am always willing to do, especially if it’s historical. They were covering the Industrial Revolution and my son chose Booker T. Washington because the speech Washington gave caught his attention. I vaguely remembered it but never quite grasped what Washington meant by the famous phrase, Cast down your buckets where you are.

For those unfamiliar with the story it goes like this…A ship was lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the distressed vessel was seen as a signal, “Water, water, we die of thirst.” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back; “Cast down your bucket where you are!” A second time the signal, “Water send us water.” went up from the distressed vessel. A third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distress vessel, at last heeding the order, cast down his bucket and it came up full of sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.

Booker T. Washington’s infamous 1895 speech addressed the change in times for Southern African Americans. No longer did could they depend on the old ways of life with the Industrial R evolution taking precedence over jobs harvesting the land. Instead of fighting for civil rights, Washington took a more practical approach in developing positive relations with the Southern white man. Thus the famous phrase, Cast down your bucket where you are. A metaphor to encourage African Americans to understand their current situation and look at what opportunities they can make for themselves, both in making a living, and getting along with white men. A dual meaning could also represent the fresh water surrounding them that they weren’t even aware of, and also meaning a fresh start with new experiences.

I was inspired to write this after reading Steve Laube’s post the other day about the dry spells authors go through, authors that are multi-published, who go for years without a contract. There was also a paragraph by Randy Alcorn about entitlement, and how we take for granted what we have and don’t look around us and seek other paths when things run dry.

Back to Booker T. He gave a great allegory to their situation, not to live in strife and worry, to look around you and see what’s out there when the water’s too salty, you might find fresh water, new beginnings and adventures. I’d like to think I’ll always be writing, and published, but there are no guarantees, so I will enjoy what I have and stop asking for water when fresh water might be right in front of me, a new opportunity that might be completely different than I expected. We get in our safe place and hang on; hoping it will last, instead of turning our heads to see what other journeys are within our grasp. So let’s look at what we’ve gained on this wild, roller coaster ride in publishing, instead of what we could lose.

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