Helping to provide drinking water for villagers in Ethiopia is among the many projects funded by the amazing $356,248 Christmas Eve collection at Living Word Community Church.

Also, the people of Aldersgate, with the help of other York countians, have made heroic strides by funding the drilling of some 200 wells in Ghana over the last few years.

Water is critically important to life, but most of us take it for granted. Just twist the tap and good York County water pours out.

Yes, water is vital. Some predict that within 40-50 years, water will be more valuable than oil.

Studies show that, despite the availability of good water:

---75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated (a friend recently wound up in the ER because of dehydration).

---In 37 percent of us, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger.

---One glass of water will shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100 percent of dieters.

---Lack of water is the No. 1 trigger of daytime fatigue.

---8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain in up to 80 percent of sufferers.

Thank God for our good water and for the generous people like those of Living Word and Aldersgate who reach across the seas to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Their caring brings to mind the question posed by Martin Luther King Jr.: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"

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A sign that some teachers are getting the message:

At Eastern, teachers have agreed to a contract that provides no salary increase the first year, but a hike of 1.54 percent in the second year, and 1.89 in the third. At least, that's a wee bit of help for battered taxpayers.

Meanwhile, at Dallastown, where the average teacher salary reportedly is over $80,000 a year, plus benefits, teachers have rejected a wage freeze.

Showdown time is coming ... teacher demands in the face of school board elections.

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Meanwhile, Mike Smeltzer, executive director of the Manufacturers' Association, writes:

"The election of 2010 should be a wake-up call to all elected representatives that Americans are tired of politics as usual and tired of the royalist attitude.

"Imagine that the federal elected representatives received pay increases and that millions of Americans on Social Security received nothing. Imagine that Pennsylvania elected representatives failed once again to effectively address the looming pension crisis."

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We remember:

It was on this very day 70 years ago that the 28th Infantry Division of the Pennsylvania National Guard, the famed "Bloody Bucket," was called to duty for World War II.

Men of the 28th fought in Normandy, through France, central Europe and the Rhineland.

The 28th proudly exists this very day, the oldest division, founded in 1879, that is still part of the U.S. Army.

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Once a curate at St. Patrick's Church in York (1983-85), the Most Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades is rising significantly in the ranks of Catholic leaders.

Following other priestly assignments, including rector of nearby Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, he was consecrated bishop of the Harrisburg diocese in 2004 at the surprisingly young age of 47. Then, just 11 months ago, the Vatican appointed him to lead the diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, home of the University of Notre Dame.

Now Bishop Rhoades also chairs the all-important Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

By the way, we understand that after being notified of his appointment as bishop, Rhoades, in khakis and a baseball cap, packed a U-haul trailer and drove himself from Mount St. Mary's to Harrisburg.

A mark of the man!

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For the record, it was on Feb. 18, 1979, that snow fell on the Sahara Desert.

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As our nation faces huge challenges at home and abroad, it is appropriate to recall the words of George Washing ton, whose birthday we observe on Tuesday.

"Of all the habits that lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.

"In vain would men claim the tributes of patriotism who would work to destroy these great pillars of human happiness ...

"It is impossible to govern rightly without God and the Bible."

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York's German-American Society presents its "Faschingstanz" (Mardi Gras) 7-11 Saturday with the Polka Quads at the Emigsville Fire Hall ... tickets, Carol Fruth, 764-6827, or Gertie Spangler, 292-3869, or Edie Heindel, 764-1725.

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Basket bingo by York Habitat on Sunday. Doors open at noon at the Shiloh Fire Hall.

Columns by Hank Merges, a local writer, appear Tuesday and Thursday in The York Dispatch. Reach Hank at hmerges@yorkdispatch.com or 854-1575.