I was in Honolulu to speak at a large national conference. I scheduled an
extra day onto the trip since I had never been to Honolulu and because a
few great friends were also at the conference. The day after the
conference, we awoke at the crack of dawn to visit Pearl Harbor. As we
stood above and looked down upon the sunken USS Arizona, the depth of our
experience came to life. It was moving and humbling.
Upon our return to the hotel, I had some time to spare before departing to
the airport. A couple of my friends and I decided to rent a raft large
enough to hold three adults. We targeted the white-capped waves, out in
the distance, as our destination. With the incoming waves, we had a hard
time getting away from the shore. At first, there seemed to be enormous
momentum keeping us "grounded." Slowly, but surely, we began to make
progress. It seemed to get easier. We eventually got within a few feet of
the whitecaps and decided to board our raft and relax as a celebration of
our efforts. It was in our moment of pause that we felt the reality of our
situation. Drifting two feet out and one foot in. Again, two feet out and
one foot in. We all felt the unsettling formula of our ever-so-gentle
drift out to sea. We immediately abandoned the raft and grasped for
safety, with one arm holding the raft and the other arm aggressively
swimming. I have never scissor-kicked so hard in my life.
Twenty minutes later we had made minimal progress. Out of nowhere, a
Lifeguard on a kayak appeared on the scene asking why we were so far out.
Feeling the comfort of his presence, we laughed for a moment, lightly
commenting about our distance from the shore. He wasn't laughing.
The orange balls had warned us, and we unknowingly ignored them.
Infrequently placed across the ocean's surface, they created an invisible
line on the ocean's floor. They silently warned us not to drift beyond
them regardless of our vision or mission. "You see those big orange balls
on top of the water?"
the lifeguard inquired. We could see them, but they didn't look very big
from where we were still struggling in the water. They did, however, give
us the insight that we were basically five times farther out than we
should be. I think the lifeguard was trying to teach us a lesson. He
didn't leave us, but he didn't assist us either. Forty-five minutes later
we walked up on the shore. I was shaking from exhaustion. I began, for the
first time, to feel the numerous cuts on my legs and feet from the sharp
coral rocks lining the ocean floor.
We had briefly noticed the orange balls on our way out. We had paid little
attention to them and certainly had not given any thought to their
significance. We had been too focused on our mission to get to the white-
capped waves in the distance!
We don't go running away from our values. We go drifting away, and one day
wake-up in a place we never meant to be, drifting in a direction we would
have never chosen.