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Memphis Daily News
Strengthen the Human Chain
July 28, 2016
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

When I was growing up, my family would spend the summers at the beach. Learning to swim in the Atlantic Ocean also meant learning to respect the unpredictability of the undertow. I learned that respect after I was pulled from its grasp by the last person on a human chain of 27 rescuers, as I was being sucked under the water for what I thought would be the last time.

It was an experience I did not want repeated. I had a choice to make. I could stay on the safety of the shore and ensure that it would never happen again. Or I could become a stronger swimmer and prepare for the risk. I chose the latter.

How many times have you faced choices that have the same effect? How many times have you felt “pulled under” by the pressures from peers, or the media, or by the arbitrary dictates of society? You fight to keep your head above the “water” of opinions and do what you think is right. Yet, sometimes, you might feel as if you don’t have the strength to persevere.

It becomes easier to just give up, to go along, to be pulled by the strong current of popular opinion, even if you do not really agree with it. It becomes easier to assign blame and offer excuses. It becomes easier to accept what is wrong when what is wrong becomes the acceptable, and doing what is right becomes the risk.

We cannot afford to cling to the perceived safety of staying on the shore while the next wave of attack to all that is good, all that we value, comes.

There was one critical factor that created the circumstance that saved my life; people got involved. That made the difference. We need each other. Too often we are tempted to just give in to the pressures around us and say, “What can I do? I am only one person.”

I cannot help but think where I would be if even one of those 27 heroes on the human chain of rescuers felt that way. Not one of them was able to save me by himself or herself. But, by working together, supporting each other, trusting each other and relying on each other, by staying connected, they pulled me to safety.

Maybe we should take the same approach with our communities or workplaces. Maybe we should seek out others who will join with us in rescuing a better place to live and work. By supporting each other and relying on one another, our vision for a better future will be pulled to safety. It will strengthen the human chain if we relate to where others are in their struggles, and reach out to them.

It takes intentional effort to reach out, to not forget a time in your life when you also struggled. There are those who are not yet strong enough to save themselves. Show them how to be stronger by your willingness to strengthen the human chain.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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