The Optimist Club in Forsyth County invited me over this week to be their speaker. I knew it was a group of optimists, because of the sign and the fact that they meet at 7 in the morning. You have to be an optimist to be willing to listen to someone speak that early in the morning.
My civic club talk is mostly a bunch of old stories that I cobble together in hopes of entertaining and occasionally inspiring the audience.
This time, I was the one who was inspired.
The club was honoring two Forsyth County youngsters who rescued a drowning man and his wife in the Gulf of Mexico in early August.
Joshua Torre, 12, and his brother, Benjamin, 10, were on the beach because of rough waters stirred by the remnants of Hurricane Eduardo.
Joshua is a Boy Scout and had recently earned his life saving merit badge. He had no idea that he would be putting it to use.
James Powell, 60, had come to Panama City from Texas with his wife for a vacation.
He became distressed in the choppy water and his wife began screaming for help.
Joshua saw the woman holding her husband, who was face down in the water.
He grabbed a boogie board and enlisted the help of his little brother, Ben.
“I wasn’t thinking about the surf conditions at the time. I was thinking more, ‘We’ve got to get this man to shore, and quick,’” Joshua said.
The boys got Powell to shore, but efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.
When the boys reached the couple, Powell’s wife was in water that was nearly a foot over her head.
She was bouncing to the bottom and then coming up for air and to cry for help.
More than likely, they saved her life.
They are handsome boys who have had a full measure of compassion and kindness instilled deep inside them. It makes you wish you could find that formula, bottle it, and give a dose to every kid you encounter.
The key ingredient is mamas and daddies, teachers, neighbors, folks at church and in the community who set an example and help shape the lives of young men like Joshua and Ben.
We’re given these unmolded and unshaped kids.
If we pull out the sandpaper of goodness and help smooth out the rough edges, we can develop human beings who can, in turn, shape the world.
The unfortunate thing is that all kids start out the same way, but an environment of discouragement and people who don’t care sends them down a path that often leads to roads filled with crime, drugs, and ultimately, failure.
My funny stories drew their fair share of laughter, but they paled in comparison to the true story of two boys, playing in the sand and responding when they heard the cry for help.
Keep your eyes open in a few years for Joshua and Benjamin Torre. They may one day be your doctors, lawyers, community leaders or the ones who use their bright minds to find a cure for cancer.
I know there are others like them and we need to wrap our collective arms around them and give them the encouragement to keep on doing good.
Harris Blackwood is the author of “When Old Mowers Die.” His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.