This damn life.
On the evening of January 31, 1953, a father and his 9-year-old son were walking along a large dyke in the Netherlands. The father noticed that the water was higher than it should have been. With a watch and a worrisome look he took a rough measure of how high the water would be soon.
In a controlled panic, he and his son woke up the mayor of the small town. They woke up the town council and for a few hours they discussed what they should do. Ultimately the town council decided that they should not ring the church bell and wake up the town because nothing serious would happen. The reason they believed everything would be OK was that the dyke had always stood. Their town had always been safe and so they trusted that what had never happened could not ever happen.
The next morning, the father and son started searching for survivors among the more than 1,800 dead.
Chances are, you and I will never feel the rush of water as a damn breaks and a town disappears. But in many ways, we all know what it’s like to stand on top of a wall as the water slowly rises. To see the warning signs in our life and know that perhaps someone should be warned.
My friend shared one such moment the other day. He’s got a number of challenges ahead of him and in some ways he’s trying to face them alone. When I asked him what would happen if he found himself face to face with one particular thing he struggled with, his response was simple, “I’ve never done that particular thing, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
And in some sense, he had never done the thing in question. But the truth is that everything you’ve ever done is something you once had never done. Everything in this life has a starting point. A moment where it leaps from not at all to at least once.
Maybe it’s slow, the daily build up of rain washing against your walls. Maybe it’s unexpected, a storm colliding against you with waves and water you never dreamed could be so deep. But in that moment when you stand on the top of your damn and can see the water rising, don’t try to go it alone. Reach out to a friend. Wake up your neighbors. Ring the church bell.
Because in this damn life, it’s just so easy for never to turn into first time ever.