Perhaps you’ve read about the recent uplifting story of a family who became caught in a riptide in Panama City, Florida. Two brothers were struggling approximately 300 feet from shore, and when their mother, grandmother, and others swam out to try to save them, they got caught up in the swirling water as well.
After searching for helpful items such as rope, which was nowhere to be found, some bystanders came up with the idea to create a human chain so they could reach the drowning people. Quickly, 80 people became entwined and, along with a swimmer who used a boogie board and a surfboard to aid those needing rescue, brought everyone to shore.
The grandmother suffered a heart attack while in the water, and at this writing is still hospitalized. Everyone else survived physically unscathed. The consensus is, without the human chain, those caught in the riptide would have died.
Wow. What a story. After I wiped away my tears, I couldn’t help thinking of what a metaphor this event is for what we all need and how we should live our lives.
We need each other. There’s no two ways about it.
I have been a mental health advocate and writer for almost ten years now, and so much of what I’ve researched and learned points to the same conclusion — loneliness, isolation, and a general feeling of not belonging can lead to depression and other illnesses. Those who suffer from brain disorders but feel loved, supported, and connected, are more likely to fare better in regards to overall prognosis.
We just can’t do it alone. And we shouldn’t have to.
Think about what happened on that beach. Strangers – 80 of them – doing the right thing. Probably not thinking twice about it. And it wasn’t that difficult because they were all holding on to each other. It wasn’t one person running in and risking his or her life – it was a group of people, holding each other up, and connecting easily to help those who were in danger.
Isn’t this what we should all be doing every day of our lives? Lifting each other up? When someone we care about, or even someone we barely know, is suffering, let’s not turn away but rather ask, “Are you okay? What can I do to help you?”
It’s easy to do, and it almost certainly matters more than most of us can imagine. And because suffering isn’t always visible, let’s try to give others the benefit of the doubt, and just be kind. Maybe the “rude” cashier at the supermarket just lost her mother to cancer. We just don’t know what is going on in other people’s lives.
After the rescue, all the human chain “links” clapped and cheered. And then they disbanded and continued on with their own lives.
I’m not sure why, but this is my favorite part of the story. Perhaps it’s because it shows that helping others (while not always as dramatic as this human chain) doesn’t have to be a big deal and is easy to incorporate into our daily lives. Really, it’s simple. The beachgoers reached out – literally – when needed, did what they needed to do to save those swimmers, and then moved on. Their lives were barely disrupted.
While most of us will never be part of a human chain that rescues a group of people, we can all do our part, in many different ways, to keep each other from drowning.