The rain in the night brought rough waves and ocean gifts the next morning. As the tide rolled out it left a trail of treasures like opened toys on Christmas morning. The large lump on the beach drew special attention. Walkers swerved to look at it and continued on their clipped pace. Children, held firm by watchful mothers, stopped to gaze from a safe distance. Even ever-hungry seagulls took a tentative peck at it. For more than an hour it was a topic of wonder and sadness— another jellyfish washed ashore.
It was my friend, Heather, who kept going back to it over and over. Finally she leaned close —observing, waiting, watching and then she bee-lined it back to our lounge chairs.
“I think that jellyfish is still alive,” she said, slightly out of breath. In a moment I was sitting there processing data:
It may have been alive, but its now been out of water too long.
Do we care if a jellyfish is alive? After all, that is one less potential sting in the gray Atlantic water.
How does one rescue a jellyfish?
She looked at our non-response, perplexed. “I see things moving on it,” she insisted, as if we had not heard her or believed her. “Its gill things are flapping.”
“It’s trying to breathe, I guess.” I said out loud. Something about that statement shocked me into action. A flurry of activity followed. With a float, a small umbrella, and smaller courage, we marched back down the beach to see our potential patient or corpse. It was a cannonball jellyfish but its normally dome head was flattened on one side like a ball that had lost its air. Still its wavy fringes remained a deep red. I slid the jelly onto the float with the umbrella, walked knee deep into the water, and slung the gellish blob back into its salty home. And we waited.
It bobbed in the water on its side the same way it had landed in the water. A wave rushed over it and then we only saw the dome head. I expected it to come back toward me in the tide so I stepped back out to ankle deep water. But instead of coming toward me, it went deep and was gone.
I stood there in a holy moment. Why had I just let that creature lie there for so long suffering? Why had I assumed its condition instead of investigating? Why had I been so slow to respond to my friend’s urgent face and plea for help?
It was just one stupid jellyfish. Who cares? But it wasn’t. It was me, and my friends, and all of us lying on the beach. Someone had taken the time to stop and look at us. Instead of leaving us for dead, or looking at our misery out of curiosity or warning, or trying feed off our helplessness, someone took the time to lean down, get close, and look for signs of life. Someone bothered to bring us back to the Living Water.
After high-fives for our heroic rescue, Heather told us that the brain is in the jelly’s dome. “You could see things working and moving in there.” she said with wonder. The true wonder is that she had to get close enough to see that. She had to risk herself to rescue it.
Rescue. God’s heart beats with a desire for rescue. Take time today to look at people around you. Who lies helpless on the beach in need of someone to get him or her back in the water of life? Don’t assume you already know the diagnosis. Look for signs of life.
You don’t have to take them home to raise. Just give them a push back in the right direction so they can breathe again.
Be the person that makes a difference. Be the person who responds to a cry for help. You never know whose life will be saved. It might be your own.
Photo by Heather Terflinger