There is always someone in need of rescue

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 31, 2012

Our family has them. I’m sure yours does, too. Maybe it’s a sentence or a phrase. It might be just a word, but the meaning conveyed has a history and a purpose and is grasped in an instant.

In our family, “I like grapes” is not just Grandma’s line in the Willy Wonka movie. It’s my son Geoffrey’s subtle way of telling me I’m missing the point of the whole conversation and I should refocus before making another comment.

“I never burn” are my niece Brandi’s famous last words before heading out of the condo and returning from the beach with deep red skin. We don’t just reserve that warning for summertime use but whenever one of us is tempted to rush off without making adequate preparations.

Another quote was birthed during the aforementioned infamous beach trip. After stopping to refuel, my sister Kay gave one of her children money to buy gas. I sat in my car and watched the procession of our precious children emerge from the convenience store with chips, candy, drinks and even those sandwiches that are usually sitting by the register. I used to wonder who actually bought those sandwiches, never guessing it was my own family. I laughed as Kay repeatedly asked, “Did anyone pay for the gas?” then watched my sister dish out more money. That question is still used when I feel as though we have missed the main point.

Although it didn’t originate in my family, there’s a phrase that has been in my thoughts lately. It has to do with the story of Jim and Margaret Brown. The poor young couple lived a modest life until Jim’s engineering efforts in the production of ore were rewarded with shares of stock and a seat on the board of the company for which he worked. The grateful couple quickly became philanthropists.

In 1912, Margaret boarded the ill-fated Titanic. When the ship struck an iceberg, she worked to get people on lifeboats before being encouraged to board one herself. As Lifeboat No. 6 rowed away from the sinking ship, Margaret convinced the crewman to turn around in an attempt to rescue more people. She spent the remainder of her life as an activist for workers, women and children. When she died she became known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

Now, 70 years after her death, those four words, which are used to describe her life, instantly remind me of a woman who shared her wealth, ideas and energy to improve the lives of others. Even when threatened with her own death, she continued to seek and save as many as she could.

In addition to remembering the story of her life, when hearing a reference to “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” we should be motivated to action. Despite our bank accounts, social status or even our inability to influence public policy, there is always, always something we can do to help someone. There are daily opportunities to reach out and help to rescue those drowning in pain, fear or hopelessness. After you’ve made it into the lifeboat, it’s not enough to just stay afloat. Turn around and rescue somebody.

Ronny may be reached at