In all these years of writing The God Squad column with Father Tom Hartman and now alone, one thing has been missing and that one thing is the sound of my voice. There is only so much you can learn and I can teach without my voice. You can read my words but you cannot hear their inflection and the way I want you to hear them, but now technology has come along to supply the missing link in how we connect to each other. It is a podcast and it is called (what else?) The God Squad: a podcast you can believe in. Actually, when it got listed on all the podcast platforms it came out this way, “The God Squad podcast with Rabbi Marc Gellman.”
All you have to do is go to the Apple podcast app or the Spotify or Amazon or Google app and enter, “The God Squad podcast with Rabbi Marc Gellman.” You will then be instantly offered the first 13 episodes. You may recognize some of the stories from this column, which I will joyously continue to write every week. For the second season of the podcast, I hope to be able to record and answer your questions, which will enable me to hear your voices as well. We might even be able to have a conversation! I am very excited about this. I hope it is good for you. I know Tommy would have been happy as well because he always believed that religion should use the latest technology to spread the word of God and the meditations of our hearts.
Here is a summary of one of the 13 episodes that are now up on the podcast site and a story you have not ever heard before,
The Ditch Walker of Salvation Ditch
This episode is the story of a ditch walker. Being a ditch walker is a job almost nobody outside the Western United States and very few in the Western United States have ever heard about, but to me it is a truly profound job filled with both spiritual and environmental significance.
Michael Kiernan is the ditch walker I know, and he works for the Salvation Ditch Company. Every day, except Sunday, early in the morning for the last 30 years Michael has walked over 10 miles along the Salvation Ditch in Aspen, Colorado, which diverts a precise amount of water from the Roaring Fork River and Woody Creek to help water the fields of ranches and farms and billionaire estates along its 18-mile run.
Michael, and his new assistant, Tucker, who will eventually be the next ditch walker of Salvation Ditch, make sure that nobody is stealing water and that no blockages have built up because of pesky beavers. Michael and Tucker cannot listen to music because they must listen to the “music of the water” of Salvation Ditch in order to know that the water is flowing properly at 57 cubic feet per second.
The Salvation Ditch Company was founded 102 years ago by 12 ranchers and farmers in the Roaring Fork Valley who needed water for their cattle and crops. Michael spoke to me about his wonder and joy, even after all these years. He loves being a ditch walker because it takes him out into nature at a time of the day when he encounters all manner of wild beauty and wildlife.
This episode uses ditch walkers as symbols of all the people who keep our civic life working properly. The episode then becomes a reflection on the need for more ditch walkers for our world. We need them in the form of umpires to play any game. We need them in the form of soldiers and police and EMS workers and fire fighters to keep us safe. We need them in the form of clergy to teach the ethical boundaries taught by faith. We need them in the form of politicians who will transcend personal privilege to sustain our government. Ditch walkers help to set the limits of our life. They prevent us from succumbing to greed and our desire to win at all costs.
This episode is also a reflection on the terrible loss of trust and civic unity that is a consequence of not having good ditch walkers helping us to live together. It is my hope that the God Squad podcast can become a kindly, nonjudgmental, electronic ditch walker for our culture.
The episode also uses a verse from Deuteronomy to remind us that common laborers were specifically included in the list of those who were present at the revelation at Mount Sinai of the laws of God.
This story also teaches us a very important lesson — distrust beavers!
(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)
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