There was a young man who took a swimming class in college, many years ago. The swimming coach was excellent and knew his course material and his students’ abilities. He gave them fair warning when it came time for the written final exam:
“Men: There is one question on the exam that you must get right, or I will flunk you. Even if you get all the other questions correct. Even if you excel at your skills and performance tests. One question. I will not tell you what it is. If you can’t tell what it is, you deserve to come back and retake the test until you get it right, and pass. So don’t leave until I have all the test papers and have checked that one answer on all of them.”
Every student but that one young man failed the exam.
The coach didn’t flinch about telling them they would all — but one — have to come back and retake the written final.
“I won’t embarrass him by naming who won’t need to come back.”
And he recommended that they all get their heads together fast, because the semester was closing soon.
The key question was this: “How long do you keep applying artificial respiration to a rescued drowning victim?”
Students reasoned all kinds of answers, based on what they knew about anoxia and brain death and circulation of blood and body temperature.
But there was only one correct answer:
“Until the patient revives
or until help arrives.”
It’s an important question. A life is at stake. And as long as air is being breathed into lungs and blood is being pumped through veins and arteries, life is still possible. Recovery may still happen.
Those young men got to the singular question and its correct answer pretty quickly … which is another whole story about teamwork and reasoning and motivation.
But the lesson that this young man took away that day was this:
You. Do. Not. Give. Up. On. People.
Even if you’re breathing for them. Even if you’re pumping bood for them. Even if you’re thinking for them because they can no longer think for themselves; trying on their behalf because they can’t try anymore; loving life for them because they’re not capable or even conscious of it anymore; living for them when they’re no longer actually alive.
Because, one day, you just might be one of those people whom life itself has given up on.
And you will need someone who knows and cares enough not to give up on you.