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Keep an eye on your Plimsoll Line

February 6, 2014
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

In today's world, life can be a constant balancing act, especially for women.

Magazines, movies, books and newspapers all add to the hype that women should be able to do it all. If we only try hard enough, we can be the perfect wife, mother, career woman, church member, neighbor, volunteer...

When exhaustion sets in, as it always does, we begin to fear that if we can't fit the Wonder Woman mold, we've somehow failed.

In my younger days, I went through the course more often than I care to admit. Each time I let myself get caught up in taking on more than I could possibly accomplish, I'd convince myself THIS time, I'd somehow pull it off. I'd manage to do it all.

It never worked.

These days, I've finally resigned myself to the fact that I'm simply not Wonder Woman material. And, I'm finally comfortable with that realization.

If ever there was a man who understood this, it was Samuel Plimsoll.

Born on February 10, 1824, Plimsoll might seem to have little connection with our busy lives today. But the fact is, the bewhiskered gent brought about reforms to the shipping industry that we could all use as modern guidelines.

In Plimsoll's England of the 1800s, shipping was the principal means of transporting goods around the world. Ship owners who overloaded their vessels made more money if the boats reached their destination. Or, if the overloaded ships went down, the unscrupulous owners profited by collecting insurance.

The loss of so many sailors in ship wrecks horrified Sam Plimsoll. He began a crusade to have the British government regulate how heavily cargo-carrying ships could be loaded.

Thanks to Plimsoll, a rule was established requiring ship owners to paint a Load Line, known as the Plimsoll Line, on the ship's hull, indicating where the ship would rest in the water when it was safely loaded.

The use of a Plimsoll line was credited with saving hundreds of sailors' lives and gave Sam Plimsoll the unofficial title of "the sailors' friend."

When I learned of the impact of the Plimsoll Line on the shipping industry, both in his day and to the present, I realized we could all use such a reference line for our own lives.

It's so easy to become overloaded by the demands of work, family and community. We each need the courage to say "no" when things begin to overwhelm us.

We owe it to ourselves, our families and our friends to keep an eye on our own Plimsoll Line to be sure we are not taking on a cargo of responsibilities that could sink us.

How's your Plimsoll Line?



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