The Shipwreck Principle

Yesterday’s post reminded me of another event where an angel came to my rescue.  It was my senior year at Wellesley College.  Three friends and I decided to take a canoe trip down the Charles River to see our friends at Harvard in Cambridge.  We rented the canoes at a place that was just upstream from a dam.  One of us had scoped out the scene earlier, and found that we could carry the canoes around the dam easily.  So we started paddling down the river, off on our great adventure.  I can’t remember what we took for food, probably fruit and sandwiches, perhaps even beer.  But alas, no one had looked at a map.  The Charles River is probably the longest way you could take from Wellesley to Cambridge.  The Charles had many meander bends between Wellesley and Dedham.  We spent all our time wandering back and forth.  Occasionally we’d go under a bridge and see a town sign.  The first one said “Needham”, the second “Dedham.”  Great!  we were advancing on our goal.  But then we saw one that said “Needham” again.  Consternation!  At first we had traveled between green banks, where the back yards of expensive houses extended down to the river and trees hung over it.  Later, as the meanders became quite constricted, we found ourselves turning back and forth in a large meadow of ripe grasses.  They were a beautiful golden brown in the hot afternoon sun, but we hadn’t seen a house for a long time.  It seemed like we spent hours paddling one way and then the other.  Time was going by and we were nowhere near Cambridge.  Finally we came to a place where there were small houses near the water, even a dock sticking out with a small boy on it.  We paddled over and asked him where we were.  He shook his head and started up toward one of the houses.  An older man came down, looked at four hot and tired Wellesley girls in two canoes, and said, with a twinkle in his eye, “Shipwrecked?  I’ve been shipwrecked too.  I’ll help you out.”
So the question is: what can you do to thank the person who helped you besides a hearty “Thank you!”  Usually, someone who is able to come to the rescue is further along the path, bigger or richer or with more resources, what can you give them?  What you do is help the next person you come across who’s shipwrecked — if in fact you do have the resources to help.  If you don’t, you can just sit with them, or find somebody who can help.
Our rescuer loaded the canoes onto his trailer, and allowed us to call our friends who came and got us.  The man who rented us the canoes was so happy to see them he didn’t give us any trouble.

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