I am planning to submit this story to Guideposts magazine. Let me know what you think
He was doing it again. Driving down the highway 65 miles an hour, steering with his knees while eating a burrito, sour cream and red sauce dripping from the wrapper.
Sitting in the passenger?s seat, furious and frightened once again by his carelessness, I prayed for the safety of our entire family, especially our four small children in the rear of the van. My husband could never understand the terror that at times paralyzed me. With our youngest not yet nine months old, my greatest fear was that in an emergency I wouldn?t be able to protect them all. Paranoid, was my husband?s word for my fear. Responsible was mine. I often thought of the story told of Abraham Lincoln, who when answering a mother?s plea to pardon her son, still wished he could give the soldier a ?little bit of hanging?. I almost wished something would happen that would make my husband see what an overwhelming burden keeping our children safe was. And then maybe I wouldn?t have to carry that burden alone.
?God, please make him understand how quickly tragedy can happen,? I prayed as I gripped the armrest.
Arriving at his sister?s apartment, my fears diminished temporarily, only to resurface when the group decided to go down to the pool. Before I knew it, our seven-year-old son Jim and his two sisters, five-year-old Kathleen and three-year-old Jennifer were in the water, with no lifeguard in sight. A bad cold kept baby Michael and I out of the water. Instead I sat in a lounge chair at the edge of the pool. Cradling my baby, I guarded my children as they played with their aunts and uncles. I prayed for their safety and I fumed. If only my husband would be more responsible, I might be able to actually enjoy an outing, not count the minutes until we could return to the safety of our home.
Eventually, I began to relax in the mellow autumn sunshine. After all, there were six adults in the water besides the other swimmers. I could rest a moment, close my eyes, relax my guard. Leaning my head back, I nestled my sleeping son?s head against my shoulder, feeling the tension begin to seep away.
What made me look up a moment later could only be explained as the hand of God. My two small daughters had decided to run from the pool to the hot tub, but Jennifer was too close to the edge. Horror turned my body to ice as my three-year-old disappeared from sight into the deep end of the pool. Jumping to my feet, clutching the no longer sleeping Michael, I screamed for my husband, but my cries were lost in the revelry of the other swimmers. Kathleen ran to me, crying in terror. Screaming out once more for help, I prayed hard. What was I to do? I had to rescue Jennifer now, but what could I do with Michael? He might crawl to the pool?s edge and fall in himself while I was saving his sister. My worst fear had materialized. Screaming a third time, I laid Michael on the rough cement and ordered Kathleen to keep him away from the water. Rushing to the edge, I dropped to my knees and reached in my hand. Five tiny fingers wrapped themselves around mine and I pulled with all my might. Jennifer came out of the water crying. It had all happened so fast that she was already on her way back to the surface when I got to her.
Furious in my relief, I screamed once again for my husband, who finally noticed the commotion and heard my cries. Hurrying out of the pool, he picked up the now crying Michael as I faced him, knees bleeding from where the cement had scraped them raw.
?Jennifer just fell into the pool and you didn?t even notice. I thought you were watching them,? I accused. ?If I hadn?t seen her she could be dead now.? Fury, fear and relief caused my body to tremble.
?Is she alright,? he questioned anxiously, peering into her tiny face.
?Yeah,? I answered almost grudgingly. ?I got to her before she had a chance to swallow any water. She?s just scared. But you should have been watching her.? I dropped to the lounge, holding out my free arm to comfort my other frightened daughter.
?I was playing with Jim,? my husband responded somewhat defensively. ?At least she?s alright.?
No thanks to you I thought. I wanted to leave, go back home where I knew it was safe. Where I could protect my children. But after a few minutes everyone put the incident from their minds and settled into the hot tub. Jennifer was none the worse for her experience. I wished I could say the same for myself.
Once again, sitting alone and holding Michael, I tried to calm my turbulent spirit. Little by little, the terror melted away and a quiet realization slowly crept into my mind.
It had happened. I had been presented with my worst fear and everything had turned out alright. God had watched over my children and provided His protection when I couldn?t do it alone. Maybe my husband wasn?t the only one who needed to learn a lesson that day. Maybe I needed to learn to trust in God. To know I wasn?t alone. To trust God to protect my children, for they were His first.
Several hours later on the trip home, my husband turned to me.
?You?re right, I need to be more careful. Things can happen so fast.?
?And you were right, I need to not worry so much.?
I guess we both had a little bit of hanging that day.
Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.
- Frederick Buechner
If society prospers at the expense of the intangibles,
how can it be called progress?