Monday, March 23, 2015

A Good and Faithful Servant

By Shirley Raye Redmond

It was a dark and stormy night—in Rhode Island, March 1869. Two soldiers stationed at Fort Adams were returning from a little R & R. They’d hired a 14-year-old boy to take them across the harbor, back to the fort. But a snowstorm had blown in. The water was frigid. Huge waves churned. The wind howled. It wasn’t long before the rowboat capsized. The teenage boy drowned. The two soldiers clung with all their might to the overturned boat. Their situation seemed hopeless.

In the meantime, Mrs. Lewis, the wife of the lighthouse keeper at Lime Rock Station, noticed their predicament. She told her daughter Ida, a young woman in her mid 20s. Ida and her younger brother flew out of the lighthouse to try to save the men. Ida had a cold. She didn’t take time to put on shoes, woolen stockings or even a coat. All she could think about was saving the lives of those desperate men.

The two soldiers were excited when they saw the rescuers approaching. They called out. They waved.

While her younger brother minded the oars, Ida pulled the nearest solder into the boat—no small feat, considering he was soaking wet and too weak to help himself.

But the other man, seeing Ida up close, cried out, “It’s only a girl!” He gave up in despair and let go of the overturned boat.

But he was wrong. Ida wasn’t ONLY a girl. She’d already saved more than a dozen men from the stormy Rhode Island waters. In fact, she’d saved her first life when she was only 16-years-old. And she saved this man’s life too, grabbing him by the hair and pulling him toward her boat. Clutching his wet uniform jacket, she hauled him in. Ida and her brother rowed back to the lighthouse where Mrs. Lewis waited with warm blankets and hot soup.

Ida Lewis went on to rescue many other drowning people after that stormy night. She was 63-years-old when she dove into the harbor to save a drowning friend. For her daring and unstinting duty to the United States Lighthouse Service, Ida received many awards and nationwide fame. She was the first woman to receive a Congressional gold medal for lifesaving. President Ulysses Grant went to the lighthouse to meet her personally. The soldiers at Fort Adams presented her with a gold watch.

Always shy and modest, Ida never really enjoyed all the publicity for her daring rescues. Someone once asked where she found the strength and courage to do what she did, and Ida replied, “I don’t know. I ain’t particularly strong. The Lord Almighty gives me the strength when I need it, that’s all.”

Unlike Ida Lewis, whose name and fame spread across the United States, most of us will never receive a Congressional medal or even save the lives of desperate souls drowning in stormy seas. But we can be good and faithful servants like Ida, trusting that the Lord Almighty will give us the strength to do what He has called us to do.

Believe it.

I do.

Shirley Raye Redmond is an award-winning author of women’s fiction and children’s books. Her Lewis & Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President (Random House) was a Children’s Book of the Month Club selection. Visit her at or connect with her on Facebook.