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The Sinking Boat

A lesson on awareness and focus


We had traded in the balmy Florida heat for the crisp coolness of the North Carolina mountains, renting a three story mansion with my wife’s family for Thanksgiving. Enough bedrooms for the lot of us, two kitchens, three sitting rooms, decks on every level and a pontoon boat to take on the lake. We were most excited about the pontoon. Just one problem. None of us had their boating license.


“I’ll do it online,” my nephew announced. He sped through the online course, and with the help of his cousins, passed the test. A few hours later, 14 of us boarded the pontoon with snacks, sweat-shirts and smiles. On the high balcony as we left, my brother-in-law stood watching us, opting to stay back for our maiden voyage.


For nearly two hours, we explored the large lake, water splashing onto the front of the pontoon deck as we went.


“Everything is getting wet,” my niece pointed out the water seeping under the front gate. We moved our things further back, but no one showed concern. What did we know about boats!


Then, just as we were coming in to dock, less than 100 yards from the rental house, my nephew, el capitán, slowed the pontoon by pulling the throttle. A little too quickly.


As the boat slowed, the waves in the lake flooded onto the front deck. The rapid rush of water pulled the bow of the boat further. We pitched forward into the murky, chilling lake water. The front gate burst open and sucked all the contents located at the bow of the boat into the lake. Seat cushions, food, drinks, phones, all floated away. As the front of the boat was being submerged, the stern of the boat rose out of the water several feet á la the Titanic.


I was sitting at the very front and was the first to be pulled into the water. I grabbed onto the bar railing and held on as tightly as I could. My daughter came next, just barely sliding out past me, before I was able to grab onto her and her onto me. All of my energy focused on keeping her close to me and holding onto the boat. Those not in the water rushed to the stern of the boat, creating a counterweight that slowly allowed the pontoon to level itself.


I felt a hand grasp my arm and pull me fully back into the boat, along with my daughter and, to my surprise, my sister-in-law. We sat in shock, freezing. I turned to my sister-in-law. She was soaked.


“You were in the water?” I asked, confused. I’d only seen my daughter go in.


“Yes!” She grabbed my arm as her husband came to her side. “I was holding onto you,” she said. “If you hadn’t been there – thank God you were there. I can’t swim.”


I had no idea. At the time, I was only thinking about my keeping daughter safe and holding onto the boat to preserve us both. This incident helped me to realize something very simple yet quite profound: that if I am intentionally focused on the right things, then whenever life hits, other people are going to benefit from that, whether I realize it in the moment or not. Put another way - blessings often flow through us, and not just to us. Stay focused!



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