The Reflecting Pool

The Reflecting Pool in Washington DC has been the background to many historical events – for Fourth of July celebrations, presidential inaugurations, and probably the most remembered event was on August 28, 1963, when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a Dream” speech. It has always been the meeting place for people to corporately express their views and to let their voices be heard. It has practically become as much of an icon for the United States as the bald eagle, the Statue of Liberty and the flag itself.

The Reflecting Pool began construction in 1922, after the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial. It was meant to be a means to connect the memorial to the rest of the National Mall. It was modeled after the grand canals at Versailles and Fontainebleau, and as the name implies, it was intended to provide a place for reflection and repose amongst Washington's scenic monuments and buildings for the 24 million people who visit it yearly.

While only being 18 inches deep, since it is 160 feet wide and 2100 feet long, the Reflecting Pool could hold 6.5 million gallons of water, provided by the city water system. In time, silt and algae began to build up, and also the need clean out the Reflecting Pool two or three times a year, which produced 10 to 15 truckloads of debris. At some points, there has even been a need to drain the pool completely, dredge out the silt, algae, bird droppings, miscellaneous trash, etc. and fill it up again.

What was the main cause of this problem? The water was not circulating; there was no outlet - other than the 500,000 gallons of water that escaped weekly through evaporation and the cracks in the foundation, caused by the fact that the pool had been built on top of a marsh and over time it had settled. In 2010, a 34 million dollar project began to solve this problem. To solve the issue of the stagnant water, they developed a system that would circulate and clean the water, and also it would now come from the Potomac River, instead of using city water. To solve the sinking problem, 2133 timber pilings were driven down to the bedrock, upon which the new foundation was built.

That is the basic principle of clean water – an inlet and an outlet. Washes and gullies, although they have an outlet, they don’t have a constant input of water; therefore they are dry most of the time. On the other end of the perspective, the Great Salt Lake and the Dead Sea both have no outlet (other than evaporation), and as a result, have high levels of salt and minerals; therefore uninhabitable. Good, clean, habitable water needs both a consistent source of water and a means for the water to flow out to allow the removal of waste and harmful matter.

We can take that principle and apply it to our lives. Throughout our lives, we develop and grow. We gain knowledge, and we learn from our life experiences. A constant flow of information to stimulate our minds is invaluable and necessary to maintain its health. If not, we will become as dry as a gulch. What we do with that information is just as important. If we choose to hold on to it and not share it with others; we’ll be just as useless as the Dead Sea. We have opportunities in our lives to help others through the things we’ve experienced and learned. What will we do with those opportunities?

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