Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World

By Scott Harrison (author) and Lisa Sweetingham (contributor)

336 pages; published by Currency, October 2, 2018

Hardcover $28, softcover $21.95, e-read edition $13.95, audio book version $14.95

In a nutshell: A hard-partying night club promoter finds religion and turns his boundless energy into making a difference in third world countries.

Who is it for? A New York Times business bestseller, the book’s story is relevant to those involved in marketing, promotion and nonprofit work.

Quote: “It should be cool to give. It should be cool to be generous. It should be cool to say yes to helping out.”

It’s difficult for many of us to balance making a living with giving back significantly to the world. In his recently released book “Thirst,” Scott Harrison shows how it can be done … but it’s his long journey to figure it all out that makes this book well worth reading.

The book is Harrison’s story of redemption, passion and a mission to bring clean water to the world. His long and winding road is part memoir, part business book and part guidebook for charitable organizations.

To say that Harrison is a motivated person is an understatement. He begins by recounting his unique upbringing. His hard-charging personality reveals itself in childhood, where he approaches everything he encounters with a relentless enthusiasm. Harrison grows up a single child of very religious parents. He is a challenge for a mother who suffers from chronic illness and a stoic father who patiently preaches the Gospel. Towing the line until he grows into adolescence, Harrison rebels against his parents and their conservative ways, joining a rock band and moving to New York City around the age of 18.

Moving up the ladder from band member to band manager and then club promoter, Harrison masters the essentials of running night clubs. He manages major New York clubs, getting ahead with his strong knack for promotion and schmoozing high-roller guests. Unfortunately the nightlife world also caters to late hours, booze, drugs and unfulfilling relationships. Over time, Harrison’s abuse of his body with alcohol, drugs and tobacco takes its toll on his physical health and the nonstop demands of night club life leaves him completely burned out.

Eventually Harrison knows that he has to do something more significant with his life. His epiphany comes when he decides to live in a way that is an exact opposite of the one he had been living. Harrison is accepted for work on Mercy Ships, an international charity that provides lifesaving surgeries to people where such care is non-existent. Working as the ship’s photographer, he chronicles the remarkable work the doctors and staff are performing. During side trips to more remote areas he is stunned with the poor water used in rural villages.

This lack of quality water conundrum lingered in Harrison’s mind when he returned to New York City after several years on the Mercy hospital ship. Taking stock of his talents he decided to create “charity: water,” a nonprofit organization focusing on solving the global water crisis. It has since raised more than $320 million while funding 30,000 water projects in 26 countries. Once these projects are completed, 8.4 million people will have access to clean, safe drinking water.

Many of Harrison’s lessons will be useful for people involved with nonprofit organizations in the Grand Traverse region where nonprofits are sometimes a hidden economic driver. Convincing others that giving back is a necessity rather than a splurging behavior is one of the book’s major takeaways.

“Thirst” showcases its author’s tremendous storytelling to highlight his unlikely journey from party animal to impactful visionary. Harrison is also an entertaining storyteller and his nonstop personality drives him to do remarkable things. His life and his work are both rewarding and inspiring.

Chris Wendel is a Business Services Consultant with Northern Initiatives, a Community Development Financial institution based (CDFI) based in Marquette. Northern Initiatives provides money and know-how to businesses throughout Michigan. Wendel lives and works in Traverse City and can be reached at