And there my cell phone lay, nestled at the bottom of a deep, fast flowing river.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up. Have you ever had one of those life events that jammed a true, character-exposing dilemma in your face and said choose?
It was a sunny, Fall day when my wife, 10-year-old daughter and I were enjoying our one timeshare vacation week of the year. This year we had chosen an out of the way, rustic resort in central Tennessee.
And on this “special” day halfway through the week, we were exploring a nearby state park. With our chubby beagle in tow, we stopped at a beautiful arched bridge high over a river. Walking towards the middle of the stone bridge, my daughter asked me:
“Daddy, can I take a picture with your phone?”
“Sure, honey.” I reply handing over the device.
Then walking to the other side of the bridge, I took in the beauty that was the tree-lined hills adjoining both banks.
A minute later I felt a gentle tug on the back of my shirt.
“Daddy.” I turn around.
“Yes?” I said now wrestling with the dog leash as our canine had spotted a nearby squirrel.
“I dropped your phone.” My daughter said softly, her face revealing deep worry.
“Yeah, right. Very funny.” I said amused, glancing around for my phone.
“No dad. I dropped it. The picture I was trying to take… and it slipped.”
“It fell?” I said, “like, you mean… in the river?”
She meekly nodded. She led me back to where she had stood on the other side of the bridge and looked down. It was a good 200 feet to the swift current below. No sign of the phone. It was history. I turned back to the small face at my side, now visibly holding back tears.
“Honey, did you drop it on purpose or did it slip out?”
“It just slipped, and I tried to catch it but it was too far.”
“Well it was an accident then,” I said fighting back the sudden, intense feeling of loss and disappointment. The device had tons of pictures and all my contacts. “I’m not mad. Accidents happen. It’s okay. I can get a new one.”
Her face brightened some, still half expecting me to get angry. But soon she calmed down.
A few days later, I had my replacement phone in hand, busy re-entering my contacts. Now if I had dropped a camera that my dad or older brother had given me, I could easily have seen them getting furious and screaming at me. But somewhere along the line, someone taught me the difference between when something happens on purpose and when it happens by accident.
And I had just taught it to my daughter. Deep down that felt pretty cool.