THIS IS THE DAY
Lou Berry loves to fish and duck hunt. He will go regardless of weather, and he would probably prefer either to eating, says his wife Nell. Lou also takes an interest in teenagers. He has been a Baptist camp counseler, and spent several years teaching a pair of young brothers to fish and hunt. Since his heart bypass, a hearing impairment and the onset of arthritis, he’s slowed down a bit, but he still squeezes as much activity as he can out of every moment. This is indeed “the day that the Lord has made,” he points out to Nell, who is very proud of him.
A few winters ago, Lou and his buddy (we’ll call him Fred) had returned from fishing. The wind had been fierce and the water very rough, with whitecaps two or three feet high, and it didn’t take them long to decide to leave. They were pulling the boat out of the water when Lou heard something, a sound he could not immediately determine. “Did you hear that?” he asked Fred.
“Yeah!” Fred replied. “What was it?”
“I don’t know,” was Lou’s answer. “But it sounded almost human.”
Listening intently for several moments, they heard it again. Was it a human cry? “That sounds like someone in trouble,” Lou said. “Let’s go see if we can find out for sure where it came from.”
They had just gotten the boat tied down, so they had to launch it again and go out in the direction where they determined the sound was coming from. It was hard to choose a direction, since the sound was often muffled due to the wind, but the men kept at it, looking for something, anything, as their ears and faces and hands stiffened in pain… Then suddenly Lou looked toward the bank, and followed the sound to what turned out to be a capsized boat. “We’re coming!” Lou called out. “Hang on!”
Coming closer, the men saw a hand reaching out to them on the side of the boat and heard the faint cry for help. There, hanging onto his overturned boat by the proverbial fingernails, was a young man at the brink of exhaustion. He would not have lasted another fifteen minutes, had they decided not to go looking for him, Lou realized.
Reaching his hand down to help him, Lou could see the gratitude in his face as he mouthed the words, “Thank you. You saved my life.”
Lou knew it was Someone greater than he that led them to this young man. “No, son,” he said, “Someone else had His hand on you. It wasn’t me that saved you. God or His angel led us to you.”
They had to physically pull him into their boat. He was wearing rubber waders filled with water, and he was so weak and cold that he could not help them. Finally emptying his waders, they dragged him into their boat and took him back to shore. Again, in his weakened condition he could not walk alone, and he was nearing hypothermia. So with Lou on one side and Fred on the other, they helped him to his truck.
“Let’s get those clothes off him,” Lou said, “and turn the heater on to get him warmed up.”
Hurriedly stripping him to his underwear, they turned on the truck heater. Slowly, the young man revived. Lou and Fred went back to recover his boat and the other equipment. Returning to the boat ramp they pulled the boat onto his trailer for him. “Want us to give you a ride home?” Lou offered.
“I can make it,” the young man answered. “Thanks to you.”
Concluding he was going to be alright, Lou and Fred headed for home. It had been a trying experience, but one they would not soon forget. In fact Lou was still a bit shaken when he related the details to Nell that evening at dinner. But he was surprised at her very startled reaction.
“You heard him call? Through the waves and the wind?” she asked her husband.
“And he was so far away that you barely saw him?” she pressed on.
Lou was starting to realize what Nell was getting at. His hearing impairment was serious. It had been a long time since he could hear a conversation without straining.
The couple looked at each other. “I told him an angel probably sent me,” Lou said.
‘An angel probably did,” Nell agreed, and gave him a big hug.