Surfing champion Laird Hamilton grew up on a couple of the most dangerous beaches in Hawaii. From the time he was five years old, Laird saw two or three drowning deaths every year and lots of injuries. Because he lived there, Laird understood the ocean and he knew how to stay safe, but he would often see people come to the beach to swim or surf whom he could tell were not prepared. They didn’t treat the ocean with respect. They didn’t know what they were doing, and their ignorance was dangerous. Again and again, the people Laird picked out as too inexperienced were the people who were injured or even killed. It wasn’t a coincidence. Laird had developed a sense for who should and who shouldn’t go into the water. Although he was very young, Laird began to speak up. He’d tell inexperienced people, “Hey, the water’s too rough, you shouldn’t go swimming today.” Most the time nobody listened. Despite his daily experience swimming in and exploring the ocean, Laird was still a child, and there are always ageist people who believe they know better just because they’re older. At first Laird didn’t press the point when people ignored him, but then one day everything changed.
That day he had a terrible feeling, almost like a premonition, that a particular man should not go in the ocean. Laird warned him to stay on the beach, it wasn’t safe for him to go in the water. The man went in the ocean anyway, and he drowned. Even worse, the man’s son drowned too. That made a huge impression on Laird. He decided that in the future, no matter what, if he could tell someone was going to be in danger, he was going to warn them. He would do whatever he could to make them listen.
In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 88 verse 81, we read, “it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.” While of course this verse is pointing out the importance of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with those who may not have had the chance to hear it, it also applies to other areas of our lives. If you know something is dangerous, you have a responsibility to speak up. People may not choose to listen, but at least you will have tried to protect them.
We all have areas of expertise. Laird was an expert on the beach where he lived, and the behavior of the ocean in that area. What are you an expert in? Are you a woodworker? You can warn others to use safety equipment and avoid taking foolish risks (my nine-fingered neighbor made a special point to warn me about chop saws when I started wood shop!) Do you have a loved one or friend who used drugs, and was harmed as a result? You have a story to tell and a responsibility to warn others. Did you grow up in an alcoholic household? You know the potential dangers of drinking and you can share what you know. Has the addiction of gambling touched the lives of your friends or family members? You can warn that an “innocent” trip to a casino has the potential to bring heartbreak, poverty and pain through crippling addiction. Even if what you know seems small or inconsequential, you have the power to share your knowledge, warn others, and give them a chance to avoid misery as a result. Maybe you know a particular brand and model of car isn’t safe, or that a particular investment opportunity is a scam. If you have knowledge someone else lacks, don’t be afraid to share what you know. Speak up, like Laird Hamilton did. They may not listen, but then again they might!