The Headwaters - The Warrior's Journey®

The Headwaters

Author: David Causey, USA (Ret.)

Riverine Sailors participate in Southern Partnership Station 2014. Photo by The U.S. Navy is licensed under CC By 2.0

The “headwaters” or “original source” of a river is defined as the furthest point of a river from its mouth (or from its confluence with a larger river).

People make much of a river’s headwaters. For instance, Meriwether Lewis considered his discovery of the Missouri’s original source—the spring that feeds Trail Creek near the Continental Divide in Montana—to be a momentous event. Just think! This is where the mighty 2,341-mile-long Missouri River begins its long journey. It starts out so humbly and ends so magnificently where it converges with the Mississippi.

Then there are the headwaters of North America’s largest and longest river, the Mississippi. The mighty Mississippi begins at the small glacial lake, Lake Itasca in north-central Minnesota, 2,530 miles from its mouth at the Gulf of Mexico.

Then there is the source of the greatest river of all, the Amazon, which has more volume than the next 7 largest rivers combined. The mass of the Amazon River is so great at its mouth, which is 120 miles wide, that its flow extends 250 miles into the South Atlantic. Yet this great river’s source is a small glacial stream that flows from the side of the snow-capped 18,353-foot mountain, Nevado Mismi.

But don’t get the wrong idea about the “ultimate source” of these rivers. It’s not like these tiny streams miraculously grew into “monster-rivers” all by themselves. The truth is that all of these great rivers have thousands of sources—tributary rivers and streams that feed into them and make them great.

Giving Credit

Seems like, to credit one single spring, lake, or stream as the ultimate source of one of these great rivers is like giving credit to one person for the work of thousands.

The race to the moon was not won by a single individual (e.g. John F. Kennedy, Werner von Braun, or Neil Armstrong), nor by a few (the astronauts or the rocket scientists). It took the skill, dedication, and sacrifices of thousands of technicians, scientists, craftsmen, workers, and every taxpayer in America to reach the moon.

The victor of WWII, or of any major battle of that war, was not any general or statesmen. The war was won by the blood and sacrifices of thousands of Soldiers who fulfilled their duty and often went above and beyond the call.

Affirming Subordinates

In any great and successful endeavor, credit ought to be shared with everyone who helped bear the burden. This is especially true for those unsung heroes and behind-the-scenes workers who labor faithfully without recognition.

Remember, it is important to praise and affirm your subordinates. Even more. you and they are members of the same team. Without their contribution, the mission would fail. They should not be treated as mere cogs on the wheel, part of the machinery that rarely receives any maintenance. They’re human beings with the same needs for significance, respect, and recognition. Above all, subordinates have a sense of belonging as every other child of God.

Psychologist Cecil Osborne said, “Perhaps once in a hundred years a person may be ruined by excessive praise, but surely once every minute someone dies inside for lack of it.”  The Scripture says, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Prov. 16:24).


Dear God in heaven, please open my eyes to see the needs of my subordinates. Open my heart and mind to appreciate their contributions and talents. Open my mouth to praise and affirm them for their sacrifices and labors. Amen.

In article photo: untitled by Sandra Dempsey on Unsplash

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