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Don't push the river

OPINION by Jim Davidson | February 14, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

The United States of America is blessed to have some great rivers, and they provide us with so many benefits that it would be impossible to list them all. In the early days of our nation's history, these natural streams of water provided the early pioneers with the means to move people and supplies to remote areas which, by and large, were inaccessible by other modes of transportation. It is little wonder that today many of our major cities are located alongside these majestic ribbons of water.

Just as the horse, mule, ox and other beasts of burden were harnessed to give us leverage, we also learned to harness these rivers to provide hydroelectric power, and the resulting impoundments more or less created our recreational and sport fishing industries. To say it another way, when you harness a deep flowing stream by building a dam, you have created the potential for power, and this power has been one of the major factors in our nation's massive economy.

But just as any auto mechanic knows, when you have a plus you also have a minus. What happens when a major river floods and overflows its banks? A while back I was talking with a friend from St. Joseph, Mo., and he was telling me about the dry flood they had several years ago. He said it never rained a drop but half the town was underwater. We also had one of these dry floods here in central Arkansas not that long ago. We are still repairing levees from that one.

In the case of my friend, he was talking about the major flood of 1993. This flood impacted the entire Midwestern part of our country when the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and many of their tributaries, overflowed their banks. In many cases, these rivers were 10 to 15 miles wide and covered everything except a few high hills here and there. People and livestock lost their lives and many people lost all of their possessions. This was and still is a very sad situation, but my point is that when a river overflows its banks, it loses much of its power. In this case, it was the heavy rains upstream that pushed the rivers and created a terrible situation for thousands and thousands of people downstream.

With your blessing, at this point, I would like to change gears and use this natural disaster as an analogy to demonstrate what happens when a human being tries to push the river. We see people around us every day who seem to be in a big hurry, going at breakneck speed. In reality, they are going nowhere, and when they get there, they have nothing to do. This is the sad truth, and hopefully, I am not talking about you. Without a clear focus and direction in our lives, we just wind up being frustrated, and this mental state can result in stress and perhaps even a heart attack.

The highways and byways of life are littered with people who were in too big of a hurry. The good news is that most of us can succeed over the long haul and get better with age. Many of our nation's greatest thinkers and achievers did not do their best work until later in life, and it is good to be reminded of this from time to time. We should also keep in mind that age, wisdom and success are not synonymous, but rather it's the wise person who develops a worthwhile plan and then works steady toward achieving it. My point is simple. We should never push the river because there is great power in our lives, if we will just go with the flow.

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