By now, everyone has heard the story of sixteen year old Abby Sunderland whose attempt to sail solo around the world came to an abrupt ending a few days ago after the mast on her sailboat broke off during a storm in the Indian Ocean.
So, now there is a debate raging about whether Abby’s parents are guilty of child endangerment for allowing her to attempt such a dangerous feat. Some critics of the Sunderlands feel that the parents should be prosecuted and, at the very least, be forced to pay restituition for the costs involved in their daughter’s rescue at sea. The Sunderlands maintain that Abby is a trained, experienced, and able sailor—comparable to other expert sailors, regardless of age.
Should 16-year-olds be banned from sailing around the world simply because of their age?
If my parents had set me adrift on the ocean in a sailboat at the age of sixteen, it probably would have been a prosecutable crime because I had no training, no experience, couldn’t swim, and was afraid of water! And that was only part of it: I was also afraid of my own shadow!
Obviously there are great differences among 16-year-olds, and they shouldn’t be stereotyped and judged simply because of their ages.
I applaud Abby for her courage and determination. I applaud her parents for doing all they could to make sure she was as prepared as she could be, and for having the courage to let her go. If Abby’s parents had been easily swayed by others’ negative opinions, their wishy-washy example would have made Abby less courageous, more fearful.
Our lives should not be wasted in trying to please everyone, or in being fearful of criticism. No matter what you do, someone will try to find something to criticize.
One of my life-long favorite Aesop’s Fables is:
A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side a countryman passed them and said: "You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?"
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: "See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides."
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn't gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: "Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along."
Well, the Man didn't know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passers-by began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said:
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours and your hulking son?"
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey's feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.
"That will teach you," said an old man who had followed them:
Please all, and you will please none!