Summary: This is installment 6, the final installment of my "Anchor Points" series.
¡§An Awful & Surprising Truth¡¨
March 5, 2000
Anchor Point #6:
¡§God is Love¡¨
INTRODUCTION: ¡§The Niagara Tubing Society: A Parable for our Times¡¨
It was late; sometime after 11:00, to the best of my calculating, but since I¡¦d left my watch in my room, I couldn¡¦t be sure. All I knew was that there weren¡¦t many folks left out on the street at this time of the night. In fact, the only other person I could see was a young man, barely past his teens, making his way down the street in my direction. As he got closer, I could tell from his carefree demeanor, his bleached-blonde shoulder-length hair, and the ever-present grunge music blaring from his headphones that he was another of those early-twenty-somethings who had seemingly few worries other than living life to the hilt. At least he seemed to me like he fit the part. As he passed by, I couldn¡¦t help but notice the message on the front of his forest green T-shirt. It read: ¡§Tubing is life; everything else is just details¡¨, with the initials N.T.S. in bold print on the back: ¡§Niagara Tubing Society.¡¨ ¡§Niagara Tubing Society¡¨, I thought, ¡§he can¡¦t be serious!¡¨ I pondered the thought for a few moments and then, exhausted from a long day of sightseeing, began to make the climb up the hill to my motel room. My thoughts of the young man faded from mind well before my head hit the pillow.
The next day was bright and sunny, and the crowds began to line the streets, waiting for the opening of some dubious tourist trap-type places and just leisurely enjoying the day. It had been a cold winter, and the coming of spring must have signaled to many the need to catch a weekend break. The throng of people by the Falls themselves seemed to be especially large for this time of year, but the unusually warm weather had brought many out. People seemed to linger a little longer than usual, no doubt, to take in not only the beauty of nature but also to catch the refreshment of the spray on their sunned faces. ¡§I¡¦m not getting into THAT mob,¡¨ I thought, and began to make plans to take in some of the Niagara region¡¦s OTHER wonders. Climbing into my car, I decided to head several miles upstream, to a park where I could, I thought, stretch out on the grass and settle into a good book.
I pulled the car into a parking spot, pulled a blanket and a cooler out of the back seat, and headed over to a spot near the river where I could periodically take a break from my book and enjoy the serenity of the river. Finding an appropriate spot, I settled in and was quickly enmeshed in the thick of the book. I was well into Chapter Five when I was distracted by the noise of a group of revelers. I looked up from my book and was astonished by what I saw: a group of young people, thirty-five or forty, by my best estimation, unloading inner tubes and wetsuits from their SUV¡¦s and pickup trucks. Then, to my amazement, they began dragging their tubes over to the edge of the river. In the middle of the throng was the young man I had seen the night before; now, he was laughing it up with his cronies as he popped the top on a cold Bud Lite. ¡§This is insanity,¡¨ I thought, ¡§I cannot believe that they intend to go tubing on the Niagara River. But it was clear that this was just what they intended, and presently the first of the group jumped the fence and began to venture out into the water. What could have they been thinking? Weren¡¦t they aware of what lay several miles ahead? Was this some crazy stunt, a fraternity prank they thought was daring and cool? Never mind that this was certainly illegal; it was crazy! I mean, I had done some stupid things myself when I was nineteen, but this was well beyond stupid; it was guaranteed suicide!
As more and more of them began to jump the fence, I began to weigh my options. It wasn¡¦t really my business, in one sense. And yet, I knew that I couldn¡¦t allow them to simply head downstream without doing SOMETHING. I had to say something; I¡¦d forever have it on my conscience if I did nothing and allowed them to plunge to a certain death. I got up from my place and hurried over to where they were. By now, all tubes were in the water and the young people were grouping up to begin.
¡§Hey, do you guys know what you¡¦re doing?¡¨ I shouted. ¡§You shouldn¡¦t be out on the river, not even fooling around; this is the most dangerous river around! You¡¦ll get yourselves killed!¡¨