The Risky Business of Helping a Shark

Cecil TaylorBy Cecil Taylor3 Minutes

Clicking on the headline, “Man Helps Shark Get Back in Water,” I expected to see a man tossing a small, beached shark back into the ocean. But actually, the man did something thoughtful and kind before releasing the shark.

He carried the four-foot-long shark into the water, trudged to a depth of about three feet, and simply held the shark as the salty waves splashed into him. He allowed the shark to start breathing well through its gills again, giving it time to adapt. He watched the waves to determine a good time to let the shark go. I feel like he was concerned that if he released the shark too soon, it would not be strong enough to swim on its own and would be swept ashore again. After a few minutes, the man finally nudged the shark out into the ocean.

I see this as a parallel for us to consider when we help others. Even if we reach out in kindness to others, we may think it’s good enough to hand them a few dollars or provide some temporary assistance, and then move on, leaving them to fend for themselves. Maybe we should be doing something more, holding onto them longer, like the Good Samaritan did when he found the injured Jew, attacked and wounded aside the road to Jericho (Luke 10: 33-35):

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. “Look after him,” he said, “and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”

When we read this story, we emphasize how the Samaritan helped the man after others had walked by. But we don’t emphasize enough how far the Samaritan was willing to go with his aid.

Perhaps we should emulate the man who helped the shark. Surely it was uncomfortable and even risky to keep holding onto this little predator. Yet to guarantee that the shark wouldn’t fall back into the same predicament, the man held on until he felt the creature would be able to swim safely on its own.

Let’s rethink kindness to consider how to go the extra mile, to do more than the minimum, to try to steady needy people so they can swim on their own.