I believe in lifejackets.
Until this moment I thought the only thing lifejackets were good for was a ridiculous tan line. I used to think, “Heck, I can swim! Plus, they make me look goofy and disproportional anyway. So what’s the point?” Well, the point is just this: they are called lifejackets for a reason. Although they may just as easily — and appropriately — be called ‘uglyjackets’ or ‘give-your-neck-and-shoulders-a-rashjackets,’ that is not their primary purpose. Of course there’s no label on them saying, “CAUTION: If you do not wear this bloated and uncomfortable jacket, death may occur,” because the name ‘lifejacket’ seems to imply that anyway. But I can’t help but wonder if they did have a plain and obnoxious label such as that, perhaps those three girls would have worn one.
She was only fourteen years old. There was nothing I could do but watch helplessly from the shore. I wondered why. Why didn’t she have lifejacket? Why had she slipped under the unusually cold water? She should have known how to swim; after all, she was fourteen years old. But maybe I was just assuming there was some unwritten law somewhere stating that if you lived in America, you would have taken swimming lessons by the age of six. Come to find out, this was not the case; she did know how to swim, but I’ll come back to that. As I watched I heard a shout, “She’s here! I found her! She’s here! Help!”
At that moment, time stood still; I forgot about everything but her pale lifeless body. The water seemed to drop 20 degrees. I was freezing, but who cares what I feel when she’s dead? Why am I worried about the cold when there are obviously bigger problems than my frozen toes, like a frozen person transformed into a Raggedy-Ann doll. At least I can feel my toes…
I didn’t know this girl. Heck, I still don’t know this girl, but I feel impressed by her. Like I said, she apparently had taken swimming lessons. She could swim, but it was her three-year-old sister that couldn’t. They were all playing on the blow-up raft when somehow the youngest slipped off. The six-year-old, not knowing how to help, stayed on the raft while Malerie — her name was Malerie — did just what I’d hope any sibling would do: she became a lifejacket.
There is a selflessness about lifejackets; despite themselves their only goal is to keep you above the water. Sadly, it’s after experiences like this that I tend to throw my life into retrospect, and mainly after disaster do I reevaluate my priorities. I realize how I am often drowning and trying to tread water longer than I am able, only to find a lifejacket in my family and friends. There is a gulp of fresh air in my God and a will to live in those I love. I believe in priorities. I believe in support. I believe in lifejackets.
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