In 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his famous “Never Give In” speech. With respect for the historic statesman and his sentiments, my husband and I have often read to our children the following quote from Churchill’s address to students:
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
His words apply to the commonplace and the extraordinary, but it’s important to pay attention to the total message. Be persistent, but be judicious and wise.
A true story:
Several years ago I took the kids to South Carolina to visit family. It was in early spring when the days were just warm enough to enjoy a cloudless sky without feeling hot. Thus, my sister and I decided to take our children to a coastal river where we could have a picnic and let the boys use their fishing poles. My sister chose an idyllic spot—a floating dock that swayed gently with the river’s current.
Suffering with seasonal allergies, I was especially looking forward to a lazy day with fresh, sea salty air filling my lungs. Neither my mind nor my body was operating at full capacity. Even so, I did my part in setting up our gear before plopping into a chair. With a sigh of relief and gratitude, I proceeded to apply some sunscreen.
Something told me not to take off my wedding band, but I didn’t listen to that little voice. Instead, I removed it and placed the ring carefully on my lap. Despite my antihistamine-groggy brain, wasn’t I being meticulous with the beloved symbol of my marriage? As I mentally complimented my diligence, my nephew pointed across the river and shouted, “Alligator!”
Caught up in everyone’s excitement, I jumped up from my chair. “Where? Is that it?”
The second I realized it was a log and my nephew was joking, I became aware of my horrible err in judgment. I watched my ring fall from my lap and disappear between two narrow slats of the metal dock. To this day, I can see my wedding band’s slow-motion decent, then hear it pinging on the metal and plunking when it hit the water.
I refused to accept that my ring was gone. It was underneath the floating dock and six feet to one inch of water, depending on the tide. My beloved wedding band was also buried in an undetermined depth of quicksand-like, stinky, black mud.
I needed a good swimmer who wasn’t scared of snakes, catfish—or alligators. When bribing some preteens to dive under the dock didn’t work (the boys wholeheartedly said “sure” but their mom said “absolutely not”), I called the local fire department for help.
Two firefighters came out with gear and searched as long as they could. As the afternoon wore on, the tide ebbed and the dock descended to the mud. I thanked the men for their trouble (they wouldn’t accept money, so I took trays of goodies to their precinct) and began making phone calls. I needed an expert.
I hated leaving the site when it grew dark, but my sister assured me that if my ring had not initially drifted away, it was safely stuck “down there” in the mud.
By the next day, a series of phone calls had led me to two professional divers who performed technical underwater tasks for a living. We agreed on a price, and they came to the river after their day of real work. The two searched, bringing up buckets of mud, until they could no longer fit under the dock with their oxygen tanks.
Meanwhile, my sister and I sifted through each smelly (like dead fish) load of mud by hand that the divers presented to us. For this act of love and devotion, I could never repay my sister!
That night, one of the divers advised me to buy some metal washers to approximate size and weight of my ring. The idea was to tie the washers to fishing line and then drop them where my ring had fallen. The current should carry the washer close to the spot where my ring had landed.
On the second day with the divers, I was prepared when I met them at the dock. I tied several yards of fishing line to four washers and let the contraption slip through the metal slats of the dock. From there, we resumed our assembly line. Taking turns bringing up buckets of odiferous mud, the good-natured divers were just as determined as my sister and I, who were side-by-side, sifting mud, intent on finding that ring.
Late in the afternoon on the third day, only one diver returned. His partner was working on another job. Meanwhile, time was of the essence; low tide was coming earlier each day. Even so, I felt hopeful. My mother had joined us and brought my two kids, who had been in her care. I was also heartened by my son, seven at the time, who voluntarily rolled up his sleeves to plough through the mucky mud. (My daughter, only four, played on a swing a safe smelling distance away!)
A few minutes into the search, my senses caught up with my persistence, and I abandoned my mud pile on the riverbank to stand on the dock. “I wasn’t here when my ring dropped,” I said, moving one foot to the right, “I was here!” This time, I let the washer go exactly where I had seen my ring fall.
Within minutes, the committed diver popped up from the water. “Is this it?” he said. A little ray of light caught my wedding band, hooked on the first joint of his pinky.
I screamed with glee, and my sister, mom and children joined me in chorus. The diver, quite a persistent fellow, went home with a good story to tell his wife—plus a bonus check for his find. Giddy, I called my husband to say that my ring was recovered. Yes, our insurance would have replaced the band. Actually, we could have afforded to a buy pricier ring with bigger diamonds, but the ring in that river was the one I treasured. I refused to leave it there.
I went home with my ring, freshly cleaned and buffed, and a hard earned lesson:
Thoughtful persistence pays off. We could have dredged up tons of river mud, but without a strategy to locate the position of my wedding ring based upon where it had fallen and where the tide had carried it, I would not be wearing my original wedding band now.
By the way, while I was on the mission of retrieving my wedding band, my husband learned that the quarterly sales he had earned for his company placed him number one in the country!
Never give in!
What’s your story?
Sallie Wolper Boyles, a.k.a. Write Lady