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From Desperation to Hope: The Lesson of Relying on 'Who' Instead of 'How’

Have you ever felt stuck in a situation, unsure of what to do, who to trust, and what the outcome would be? Let me tell you a story that you’ll likely appreciate.

Lake Willoughby in early June 2023
Lake Willoughby in early June 2023

It was early June in Northern Vermont, technically spring time, although there was still the usual lingering winter chill in the air. We all woke up very early that morning to get our gear loaded into the truck and head to Lake Willoughby for an epic day of fishing.

Being the highly prepared person that I am, I checked the lake weather and saw it was going to be a cold and windy day without much sunshine. I packed accordingly: winter hat and gloves, wool socks, waterproof pants and jacket, snacks and water, and first aid supplies. What I did not pack, that in retrospect would have been helpful, was my Garmin InReach satellite communicator.

There were six of us on the boat: three adults and three children. Excitement was in the air as we cruised out to the middle of the lake and set up the trolling lines. The fishfinders were on and we were watching the screens closely. 

Lake Willoughby is an absolutely breathtaking place to be. It resembles a Norwegian fjord due to the fact it was created by ancient ice flow that cut sheer rock cliffs between two mountains. It’s one of my favorite places in New England and I’ve spent a fair amount of time hiking the surrounding mountains. Even on an overcast day, the towering cliffs on either side of the lake give you a sense of awe and wonder. 

I was steering the boat, and this normally wouldn’t have been a difficult task being on a lake five miles long and only one mile wide. What made it slightly challenging today was the wind. A strong wind tunnel effect created by the towering cliffs on either side was making it hard to keep the boat moving straight ahead as we were trolling at ~2 miles per hour against the wind, heading north.

Just ten minutes had gone by before the motor suddenly quit. The fishfinder screens went black. Everyone turned and looked at me, the novice driver. “I didn’t touch anything!” I quickly declared with a hint of panic in my voice. All that could be heard now was the wind and the small waves lapping up against the side of the boat.

The owner of the boat took the driver's seat. Everyone held their breath, unsure of what this meant. After a quick assessment of the dashboard, he pulled out his cell phone hoping for a miracle in a place we all knew was devoid of the modern convenience of cell service. He then proclaimed with finality, “We are screwed!” 

Immediate panic ensued in the children. The youngest burst into tears, sobbing, “I want to go home!” The oldest stood at the stern facing the empty lake and began yelling at the top of his lungs, “Help! Help us!”

While the other adults took a look at the motor, I pulled the sobbing child into my arms to comfort him and directed the other children to stay calm and quiet. 

I did an assessment of our position. There were no other boats in view, and unfortunately, I suspected there would not be much activity on the lake today due to the weather conditions. The shoreline was less than 50 yards away, and luckily, we were visible to the roadway. 

I took a quick inventory of our supplies: plenty of food and water, life jackets, first aid kit with one mylar emergency blanket, a lighter, and a small cabin space that could serve as a shelter from the wind. We had no oars, no flares, and no communication devices besides cell phones without service.

After the mechanically-minded adults determined that there was no way the motor was going to start working, they pulled out a cell phone again and attempted a ‘Hail Mary’ call to a local family member. The call connected and our unsuspecting hero picked up. He would be on his way within the next half hour. Although we didn’t know how he was going to help us without a boat of his own, we felt the overwhelming relief that, at least now someone knew our predicament.

Our rescue boat, towing us back to shore
Our rescuer, towing us back to shore

Our local hero arrived at the shoreline and managed to secure the assistance of a lake resident who had a boat and tow rope. We were cold and without fish, but we had been saved and were forever grateful.


There is a part of this little tale that I haven’t told you yet, and it’s the real reason I’m sharing it with you today. 

This story isn’t about boat emergency preparedness, although I certainly learned some valuable lessons that I'll never forget.

This story is about the young child who was sobbing in my arms. He taught me something so profound and so wonderful that the very next day I retold his story to friends, family and coworkers. 

When he was beside himself with tears, I tried the usual adult-like things you might say to a child in a fearful situation, “Braxton, we’re going to be alright. You’re going to see your mumma again. We’re going to make it home.” 

Ironically, none of these statements of comfort offered him any level of peace. He didn’t believe me. He just kept asking between the sobs, “But HOW?” 

In Braxton’s beautiful little mind, if he couldn’t find the logic to the process of getting from the boat to his home, then that meant getting back home was impossible and he would never see his mother again. I, too, didn’t know how this rescue would happen, I was merely hoping someone would help us. How could I console him with that uncertainty? I felt rendered useless.

It was only when we spotted the rescue boat headed our way that Braxton’s tears transformed into a radiant smile. At that moment, he saw the way home, and suddenly, he believed that he would be reunited with his mother.

Braxton, all smiles and headed home
Braxton, all smiles and headed home

This experience with Braxton made me realize that understanding the "HOW" is often as important to us as reaching the destination. However, the true lesson lies in shifting our focus from the "HOW" to the "WHO." It's not just about explaining the process; it's about recognizing the significance of the people who step in to help.

In uncertain situations, assurances alone may not be enough. The importance lies in acknowledging the 'Who' instead of 'How' – understanding that the right people, the support, and the collective effort can lead to a positive outcome. Braxton's shift from tears to smiles upon seeing the rescue boat illustrates the power of relying on the "Who" – the people who stepped in to assist.

So, the next time you face uncertainty or guide someone through it, remember Braxton's story. It's not just about saying, "We'll be alright," but about recognizing the individuals, the support system, and the collective effort – the "Who" that leads to hope, assurance, and a journey back home.

-Amanda, Owner and Operations Consultant

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Jan 16
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

This is a amazing little story truly. I love you guys❤️

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