Greetings from the Ridge.
It was a good boat. In fact he’d sailed it his entire life and until today it had never caused him a minute’s problem. Every morning he’d catch the outgoing tide, spend his day doing his sailor-ly duty, then in the evening the tides would again come in, bringing him safely home. Until today.
He couldn’t remember what he’d done differently or perhaps it wasn’t his fault. The weather had been curious lately and perhaps that had affected the tides. Heck, he was getting older. Maybe he’d simply not watched his timepiece closely. But as he looked toward shore he saw all the other boats tying up for the night but he was still far off shore. Something was terribly wrong.
He waved at his friends now heading up to the village for their supper but no one thought to look back to the sea. They’d had quite enough of the water for one day and besides, it was time for all boats to be ashore so he sat there alone. Floating. Going nowhere.
How could this have happened? He’d spent his entire life living this same routine . . . the tide takes you out, the tide brings you back in. And after a lifetime on his boat, a lifetime of the tide and the weather gods being so faithful, his boat lay motionless on a silent sea. The man faced the prospect of a long night ahead. He had brought neither shelter nor blanket. Why should he? This had never happened before.
Then as he turned his eyes one more desperate time toward the shore he saw a lone lantern coming down the steep bank toward the dock. Someone was making a last check of the moorings before turning in. The man in the boat summoned all the lungpower he could muster and shouted, “Halloo! Hey there! I’m adrift!” The lantern stopped in mid step. Again the boatman shouted, “Halloo! Help me! I’m stranded!” The beam of light hurried down the steps and to the seaward edge of the dock. From over the quiet waters he heard the answering, “Halloo! Who?”
Yes…yes! He’d been heard. “I’m adrift!” he shouted.
Then a small silence and the answer came back muffled . . . “Rrrr!”
What did this mean? No matter. He’d been heard. Someone knew he was out here. “I need help!” the man in the boat shouted. And this time he heard the answer more clearly. “Oar!”
“Use your oar!”
The man in the boat looked back toward the transom and saw an oar. After a lifetime of floating with the tide the idea of rowing had never occurred to him. He picked it up and began rowing.
A simple tale. Perhaps even a silly one, but with a message that seems clear. We get so overwhelmed with problems that we feel there’s no solution. The headlines scream at us with the world’s needs and wish someone would do something. We blame our neighbors, we blame the “other” groups, we blame the Congress, but do we simply pick up the oar and start rowing?
You pray for your neighbors down the street who’ve been hit by hard times. Good for you. Now when you get up off your knees, go take them a gift certificate for groceries. Do some rowing.
Our nation has listed education as a low priority and as a result our kids and our country is suffering. So pick up an oar. Volunteer an hour a week to help a child read.
Your local economy is floundering as one business after another succumbs to the national chains. Stop buying your Polident and pickup trucks off the Internet and go pump your cash into the neighborhood store. Row, baby . . . row.
You’re lonely and it hurts. So is half the world. Pick up the phone, address an envelope, send a message of friendship and watch the love bounce right back in your lap. Row, row, row!
We can’t always depend upon the tides of life taking us in the right direction and simply floating along won’t get the job done. The world is not hurting for lack of ocean and there’s no shortage of oars. All we need is someone to row.
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. We may not answer the door but you'll enjoy the trip.