Years ago, when my youngest son Luke was about 8, we lived in a rainforest. We were privileged to have our own secluded swimming hole, fed by the river streams which flowed from the tops of the mountains. The swimming area was about a five minute hike downhill from our house.
My kids loved going there to cool off during the hot Caribbean summers. Oftentimes, I allowed them to go unaccompanied, but there were a few rules they always had to follow when they went to the river. Although all four were good swimmers, Luke was required to wear a life jacket. They were not allowed to go solo, in case there was any type of emergency. And, if they saw a sudden rushing of leaves come downstream, they were immediately to get out of the water, because that usually meant a flash flood was about to follow.
From where the house stood, I could not see them, although if there were shouts, I could hear them. Most of the time, all of them went down to the river together. At times, the oldest two would pair up and leave their younger siblings behind. I never worried much because they were always careful to follow the rules… and because I always prayed for their safety.
One day I stayed behind to clean up the outside of the house. As they had done many times before, my children hiked down hill to their favorite spot on earth. They had been gone for about 30 minutes, when I was suddenly overcome with an urgent sense that something was wrong. I put down the broom I had in my hand and listened intently for any cries for help. I didn't hear any. I brushed it off to a mother's paranoia, but silently asked God to surround them with angels. I went back to sweeping, but that uneasy feeling persisted.
About 10 minutes later, they returned. My daughter, who is the oldest, was carrying Luke in her arms. All I could see was blood. My other two sons ran towards me and the oldest was shouting, “He's okay mom. He's okay!”
In a crisis situation, I rarely panic. I switch to a mode that enables me to assess the situation and determine a course of action. I could see that Luke was still conscious. All the blood seemed to be coming from his mouth. His sister put him down and he was able to stand on his own, so I knew he was okay. That didn't prevent my body from being flooded with adrenaline which quickly turned into waves of nausea.
They told me what happened.
There was a rope tied to a tree we would use to swing in the water. Instead of letting go of the rope above the water, Luke let go of it as he approached the rocky bank. When he let go, he hit the rocks. Although his life jacket prevented any serious harm, he did hit his chin, knocking a tooth out. Ultimately, he required a trip to the emergency room, 6 stitches on his chin and had to have braces to realign his teeth.
I share this story, because I believe I was warned that something would happen, and I ignored the warning. For a long time, I felt like a bad mother. But then I realized that we ignore warnings all the time.
Small still voice
Two thirds of women who were interviewed after an assault said they had a feeling something was wrong, but they didn't do anything about it. We cross our fingers, whisper a prayer and hope for the best.
Don't do it. Don't just chalk it up to paranoia, like I did. If you feel like there is something wrong, there probably is. If a situation or a person is making you uncomfortable, do whatever you can to remove yourself. If the alarms go off in your mind, listen to them. You may very well avoid being a victim by doing so. Be prepared to defend yourself, or someone else.
It has been 11 years since that incident on the river. I still wonder if it would have happened if I had heeded that warning and made the hike down to the swimming hole. Luke is fine, but he still has a scar on his chin.
Listen to your instincts. Trust your gut reactions. Do something about it.