The Evening Leader
Saving a life
Making a Difference: A series of thoughts and reflections on living a life of purpose.
When I think of people who save lives, I think of first responders and medical professionals. They save lives every day, in all sorts of ways. More about that in a future column.
The average person, who is not a first responder or medical person, may not have had the opportunity to save a life. I have had two such opportunities.
When I was a senior in high school, in Oakland, California, my school had a tradition called, “Senior Ditch Day.” That meant we could officially play hooky without consequences.
Since it was sanctioned by the school, and we all had to go to the same place under the supervision of our teachers, it was really more of a field trip than playing hooky.
My Senior Ditch Day was a day at a mountain park with hiking trails, a lake for fishing and boating, picnic area, etc. I chose to rent a row boat and take Jeanine with me for a romantic cruise.
I had been trying to date Jeanine for a couple years, but like most high school girls, she was much more mature and wanted little to do with me. She dated older guys. Today, however, she was trapped with boys in her own senior class, so I would just have to do. But I digress...
As I rowed around this lake, we sat in the standard row boat configuration. I was on the middle bench rowing, facing toward the stern. Jeanine was on the rear bench facing forward. It was pleasant, since she had to look at me and I could gaze upon her voluptuous body.
I was pretty good at rowing and boats were familiar to me, since my mom had spent her hardearned money to enroll me in a “Learn to Sail” class one summer. I maneuvered the row boat across the lake, hoping to get farther away from my classmates who were aboard their paddle and row boats.
As I neared a deserted shoreline, I momentarily took my eyes off of Jeanine’s lovely face and peered at something strange over her shoulder in the distance. It was two small shoes and socks at the water’s edge. No one was visible nearby.
A few seconds later, I spied a small round something in the water, bobbing up to the surface a few feet from the shoes. I instantly knew that it was a small child who waded into the water and was in over his head. This all occurred in a couple seconds.
I lunged forward in Jeanine’s direction. Her startled look told me that she thought I was attacking her. I ignored her surprised look as I flew past her shoulder, launching myself into the water.
I hit the water, prepared to swim to the child. To my surprise, the water was only about three feet deep here. I quickly ended up churning my legs through the shallows. In the back of my consciousness, I could hear laughing. My classmates heard me hit the water and assumed I had fallen into the lake by accident. No matter. I was on a mission.
The small head had disappeared. I felt around, snagging a small child by his shirt. I pulled him out of the water, depositing him on the shore. I began running my mind through the CPR protocols of the early 1960s, but he began to cough and splutter on his own.
He was crying. My classmates were becoming serious as they realized what was happening. Jeanine was watching silently. From the distance, a large woman ran toward me and the boy. She was hysterical, blabbering something incoherent.
She snatched up the child and began to run off. I chased her with his shoes and socks. She grabbed them without a word and disappeared in the distance. I never saw them again. This entire event took only a minute or so.
I sat, dripping and gasping on the shore. Gradually, my classmates came over and heard the details. Some shrugged and went back to whatever they were doing. A few congratulated me for saving a life. Jeanine just smiled at me, as I sat, sopping wet, processing what had happened.
P.S.: That was the only time I ever spent any time alone with Jeanine. We never held hands, kissed or dated. She returned to her older, more mature fellas and I, well, that’s another story for another time.