Monday, February 23, 2009

Not Ten Feet Away

September a year ago, I was walking on a beach with one of my older girls. She's a junior in college and we don't get to spend a lot of time together anymore. So it was a sweet time. She was telling me about her life, her hopes and dreams for the future. The tide was out and we collected shells as we walked. Even though it was around 6:00 in the evening, the beach was still crowded. Most of the people were on the section of beach that is exposed during the low tide. It's a large area with tide pools. This coast is mild. No big waves or surf to speak of, but the currents can be strong… and the calm water is deceptive. We stuck to the coastline because I had supper in the oven and we knew our time to walk was short. As we headed towards the crowd, I noticed a couple of people were out in the water a good distance from the shore. We walked within ten feet of them. I wondered if they realized the tide was coming in and that the sand bar they were standing on would be twenty feet underwater in an hour or two. But I didn't say anything. They were adults. It was none of my business. There were warning signs posted all along the beach about the dangers.

We continued up the beach a good ways, when I realized how late it was. The sun was setting so rather than follow the shore line, we cut across the beach in front of the empty life guard stands, the closed coast guard office, and I never even looked out to sea.

After dinner, the little ones wanted to swim in the pool. As we were coming down the stairs to the pool area, I noticed a plane flying dangerously low over the sea. I knew there was an airport nearby…but this was low. He circled around and then began panning the sea with a huge light. It was then that I noticed the blue and red lights flashing on the beach down by the lifeguard stands. Soon there were boats all along the shore. I watched them for over an hour. After I took the kids back to the condo, I went back and stood on the balcony overlooking the pool and the beach. I heard a woman scream. After that, the plane left the area, then the boats, and finally the lights on the beach moved toward the coast guard office.

A small group of people walked off the beach and up to the landing where I stood. They told me a young woman had drowned. The lights....they were searching for her body in the sea. The scream....her friend who had tried to keep her afloat but failed. These two life long friends were wading in the ocean while the tide was out. When they realized how late it was and that the tide was rolling in, they headed back to shore. One of them couldn't swim. She stepped into a hole, sunk in the water over her head and the current carried her out into the deeper water. Her friend followed, pulled her head out of water and swam with them both for as long as she could. No one saw them struggling...or heard their pleas for help.

My stomach rolled and a deep regret settled in my bones ... I had walked right past them, twice. If I had but known... I could have done something. Swam out with a float.... a surf board...something. But I was too busy, hurrying back home and I never saw her struggle to live.

I wonder how many other people I walk past during the day who are drowning.... and I don't see them because I'm so busy. Maybe they are not in water, but drowning in a sea of worries, confusion and doubt....struggling to keep their head above water.... I could throw them an act of kindness, a word of encouragement... something.

Do you reach out to others when you know they are drowning in their problems and fears or do you mind your own business?

Keep the faith...but share it. ~Amy
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are dong.”
1Thessalonians 5:11


Bethany said...

Great post Amy. I think we walk past people in our lives all the time, of course without knowing it. :(

I actually got caught in a roll tide once ... in Mexico. It came out of nowhere, sucked me in and I did somersaults in the water until it finally kicked me out 50 or so feet down the shoreline. It is such scary stuff ... I totally could have drowned that day.

Christine said...

Wow, what a story and a sober reminder that we should take a little more time to pay attention to others instead of ourselves.

Martha said...

I fear too often I "mind my own busisness" in the guise that I don't know what to do or say. Often I comfort myself with the idea that I can always pray but hesitate to step in and do something. Today I am sad.