by Mary Beth Maassen
On Saturday in Panama City, Florida, a group of swimmers were pulled out to sea by a powerful rip current. Rescue attempts had been made by various individuals, all of whom became stranded in the riptide themselves.
Jessica Simmons and her husband Derek were taking a walk when flashing emergency lights alerted them to a group of a dozen stranded swimmers shouting for help. Jessica and husband, both strong swimmers, rallied and organized the crowd into a human chain.
According to media reports, about 80 people jumped into the water, and by linking arms and hands, formed a human chain that nearly reached the stranded swimmers. Jessica and Derek then swam out to the end of the chain and rescued the strangers one-by-one. The exhausted swimmers were passed bucket-brigade style back to shore. The whole effort took over an hour.
“To see people from different races and genders come into action to help total strangers is absolutely amazing to see!!” Jessica posted on her Facebook page. “People who didn’t even know each other went hand in hand in a line, into the water to try and reach them. Pause and just imagine that.”
I am sorry that the stranded swimmers were no doubt scared and panicking, but I found the story to be extremely uplifting. I am guessing in that spontaneous human chain line-up there were people of all ages, colors, religions, and cultures. There were probably people of various education and income levels, and probably some people who voted for Hillary and some people who voted for Donald, and some people who did not vote at all…
I have grown quite weary of the news lately. It makes my head hurt and my eyes all squinty. Political disagreements are to be expected, but I think we are entitled to responsible, thoughtful and constructive discourse from our leaders, no matter the party affiliation. Hate and hate-filled speech from our leaders gives social permission to others to do the same. Then people grow accustom to talking that way and it becomes the norm, a very destructive norm. It divides us, and then keeps us apart.
People forget how to treat each other with respect and kindness. And then you just end up with everyone stuck in the deep end of the cesspool, and no one left to pull us out.
So what if we don’t forget to treat each other with respect and kindness? I am thinking, just to keep it simple and consistent we use that standard we all learned in kindergarten. The one you have heard a million times. The Golden Rule: Treat others as you wish to be treated. Talk to others the way you wish to be spoken to.
Perhaps respect in the face of disrespect will be a reminder. Perhaps kindness in the face of hatred will help carry someone back to shore.
First published 13 July 2017 in the Los Alamos Daily Post.