Father Saves a Drowning Woman


A Story to Illustrate Unselfish Action, Self-Sacrifice and Giving Help to Others

I remember the occasion so well; it could have been yesterday. We were out on a family picnic down by the Holy River. This was something that my family liked to do in the dry season when we would be feeling very hot and dusty. We would take food and mats and in the cooler part of the day we would set ourselves up on the riverbank and watch the comings and goings. The children would bathe. Mother never would, but she would always paddle. Father taught us how to swim because, as he said, “If you fall into water, you will drown if you do not swim!”

My mother announced that she did not plan to fall into water. In fact she had decided that she would never fall into water!

“Sometimes there is no choice, my dear, “ said Father.

His words turned out to be prophetic. Watching the boats running up and down the river, some rafts, some canoes, other larger rowing boats, we noticed a group of people suddenly stand up in their boat. It was quite near the shore so we could see the expressions on their faces. They looked horror struck. The women started to scream and the men to shout. There must have been half a dozen of them. The boat tipped at an angle and began to sink. The passengers all fell into the water and most started to swim around. Two of them managed to turn the boat upside down to hang on to; meanwhile three of them started to swim towards the shore. It was very confusing. My father spotted something he did not like the look of. Quick as a flash he tore off his shoes and his jacket. He waded into the water and swam, faster than I have ever seen him swim, towards the boat, which was upstream of us.

“Daddy, Daddy!” we all screamed, not understanding what was going on. As he neared the boat he reached out and pulled what looked like a rag from the water. Attached to it was a woman, half drowned. He held her in one arm, her mouth above the surface of the water, and swam laboriously back to the shore.

He dragged her out of the water and lay her on her front. She was promptly sick, then she started to breathe in huge, irregular gasps of air. ‘It’s all right. It’s all right. You’ll be fine now,” he was saying.

My mother held her tight in her arms and rocked her like she used to rock us when we were babies. They both managed to calm the hysterical woman.

Finally the whole party was assembled on the bank. The woman had recovered her composure enough to stand supported by her husband who was thanking my father profusely. “If you had not been watching us and had the courage to swim out to us, my wife would have drowned!” he said. “I cannot thank you enough, Sir!”

“Give your thanks to the Lord, my good man,” said Father, embarrassed at all the attention. “It is He who decided that your wife should live today.”

“Maybe, but if you had not been so unselfish, risking your own life, she would not have been saved!”

“Well, well,” said Father! “Now you see children, why it is so important to learn to swim. You do it so you can save others from drowning!”

The party of wet day-trippers managed to raise a laugh and turned to make their way back to town. We packed up our picnic and walked back to the house, all holding on to a part of Father, so that he found it rather difficult to carry the basket.

Father looked down at us and said, “One day maybe the Lord will ask you to risk your life for someone. You do have to think quite hard about it. In this case I knew I could swim out there and save the woman, but sometimes one has to allow others to die if certain death is going to be the outcome for the rescuer.”

Some questions to ask yourself about unselfish action and self-sacrifice:

  • Think of the people who are close to you. Think of some of the times when they have given their time and attention willingly, instead of doing what they wanted to do. How important is that to you?
  • Think of occasions when you have given your time and energy unselfishly to other people. How did you feel? How did they feel?

Guidance on Self Sacrifice