One Saturday, not very long ago, my wife and I made a trip into Pennsylvania to enjoy a day of whitewater rafting. By the time we arrived at the rafting company we had just enough time to check in and get our raft assignments. With all of the paper work filled out we sat through the instructions on how to manage the various rapid classifications. We secured our life vests, picked up a bucket in which we carried our lunch so it wouldn’t get wet and we carried an additional bucket for the sole purpose of bailing water out of the raft.
We met a very nice married couple from New York and eventually shared a raft with them as we made our way along the eleven mile journey down the Lehigh River. We were instructed to be aware of two kinds of rocks. The first were rocks you could see. Obviously we were to try and avoid these huge boulders . The other rocks we were to be aware of were the ones you couldn’t see that lurked just beneath the surface of the river. You have heard it said, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.” Well, that isn’t exactly true when it comes to whitewater rafting.
My reflection centers around the unexpected changes that can happen while engaged in the thrill of whitewater rafting. If you have never experienced this sport before it may be a little difficult to describe but I’ll try. This experience is similar to riding a rollercoaster except one never knows the exact path your raft will take while adrift on the river. You are at the mercy of the river and the only way to change your path is to maneuver one’s raft with the paddle you have in your hand. Did I mention the concealed rocks just beneath the river’s surface? All of these various components, river currents, rocks, above and below the surface, other rafters and the water itself that often splashes into the raft together can cause changes that one may not be anticipating.
So here we are setting out on this eleven mile journey in a four person raft with two new friends from New York. The weather is great and accompanying us are about five raft employees, let’s call them guides, who are in individual kayaks giving us various kinds of hand signals while blowing whistles attempting to direct us away from, let’s say, the more dangerous places along the river. As we become better acquainted with our new friends, let’s call them Robert and Jennifer, we discover from one another what we each did for a living. When it was my turn to indicated what my job was I told them that I was a chaplain in a children’s hospital. What I heard next I was not anticipating but I will be forever grateful to have heard what I am about to relay to you.
Robert’s father was a policeman. He expressed a kind of appreciation for him that let me know how much he was respected. Then Robert said that his mother and father some years before had gone on a whitewater rafting trip very much like the one we were experiencing. Robert expressed that while they were on this trip someone fell out of their raft and appeared as though they were drowning. Being the public servant that his father was he jumped in to try and save this person’s life. Then Robert said, “my dad was successful in saving this persons life and this one act forever changed my dad.” He said I remember after he got home he was a different man. As a matter of fact he eventually finished his service as a policeman and entered seminary to prepare himself to become a minister.
I sat there in awe as I listened to Robert share this awesome story about his dad. What is so amazing to me is Robert and his wife are now on a whitewater rafting trip taking a chance to express a story that I asked permission to place on this blog. Only time will tell the inspiration that someone somewhere will receive just by reading this amazing story. How many more lives are experiencing the unexpected, placing them is precarious situation for which they need a savior? Thank you Robert and Jennifer for expressing to us a tender and loving story about a particular course change that has made a difference in the lives of so many!