I was treading water off the coast of Honeymoon Island Beach, Florida when two dorsal fins off to the right caught my eye. They were swimming parallel to shore a few yards from me. I froze.
Carefully slipping my air mattress between them and me (yeah, like that’s really going to help), I headed for shore. As a Floridian, I knew better than to frantically swim – churning water excites sharks, reminding them of injured fish ripe for the picking. I also knew enough not to jump on my air mattress and paddle. I would then resemble a turtle and sharks love turtles. Becoming a tasty afternoon snack was exactly what I was trying to avoid!
In the split second I had to decide my best course of action, I knew the safest route would be to slide onto my air mattress and lie absolutely still. I also knew I couldn’t do it.
So, I continued walking toward shore as calmly as possible, trailing my mattress behind me. Noticing me, my two unwanted guests changed direction and headed directly for me. I cried out, “God protect me! God protect me! God protect me!”
Not more than a body’s length from me at that point, I thought, There go my legs. It was nice having them. I’ll miss them.
Then, just as quickly as before, the would be predators changed course and headed north.
As they left me behind, I realized with regret that they weren’t sharks, but dolphins! I had it within my reach to touch them and because of fear, I missed a once in a lifetime experience. How sweet would it have been to touch two dolphins in the wild?
I will never know because fear clouded my vision when I should have stayed still and observed the signs – straight, pointed dorsal fins for sharks, slanted, curved dorsal fins for dolphins; vertical tails swishing back and forth for sharks, horizontal tails flipping up and down for dolphins; gills on sharks (because they are fish), no gills on dolphins (because they are mammals). Granted, some of these signs would not be easily seen while the creatures were under water, but still, a little attention to detail would have been helpful.
So, then I thought, How many times in the circumstances of my life have I seen sharks when God sent dolphins? How many blessings have I missed while blind-sided by fear? I may never know. But, of this I am certain: From now on, I’m looking for dolphins!