“Who should I save first, the ones who are drowning or the ones who are just tired of rowing?” (Longfellow Deeds)


This is the most important piece of wisdom I ever got from a movie. Gary Cooper made this extremely succinct point in the original Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. This movie is another Frank Capra classic and deserves every bit of the credit it has received. The whole point of the movie and life in general is contained in these 19 words. As I view the world of today and realize that this movie was made during the Great Depression it seems pretty sad that we still don’t understand this moral imperative.

In the movie, Longfellow Deeds is given a large inheritance as the sole surviving nephew of his rich uncle. Deeds doesn’ t really have any good use for that much money and believes it is more trouble than it’s worth and therefore decides to give it all away to people who are down on their luck and literally starving for help. His plan is met with incredible resistance by others with money who want the millions for themselves. Deeds sees these people for the  thieves they really are and takes matters into his own hands by giving away farmland he has purchased to anyone who will work the land for 5 years. As the line of people stretches out the door of his mansion, the authorities come in and arrest him under the premise of diminished capacity caused by mental illness. Deeds is so depressed by this turn of events that he refuses to defend himself in court. Only when the audience demands to be heard and testifies on his behalf does he realize his idea has absolute value and he must do whatever he can to help all of those people who need him so badly. He sums up his argument for sanity with this statement and the judge declares him to be the “sanest person alive.”

This whole movie is a wonderful metaphor for the importance of taking care of each other. We’re all just people. We live, we die and we only have a few short years to make a difference for those around us. When are we going to recognize that selfishness, pride and greed are the worst things anyone can ever aspire to? I’m not asking anyone to give away all of their hard-earned money but I am asking for simple compassion. Each of us has something inside us that is a gift from God. Your gift may have made you rich, or brilliant or happy but if you don’t share that gift with others what good is it? We just need to look inside ourselves and find that one thing that is unique and then find a way to use it for the common good. That’s why I write. I’m not getting paid for anything in this blog but I know my words touch people and maybe even make them try harder. If  writing down my thoughts has that effect then I have to continue. I just happen to believe that everyone is talented in ways that someone else desperately needs.

I honestly believe that was the message that Jesus Christ brought to all of us. He never had much of anything in the way of material possessions and what he had he gave away as often as needed. He never asked to be king or considered a supreme being. What he did was help everyone he came in contact with. Whatever they needed he gave without question, including his own life. How can we possibly do less? Imagine a world where that same attitude is at work every day. Longfellow Deeds understood this message completely and tried his best to help others and in the process he realized he was actually helping himself. What a lucky guy!

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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3 Responses to “Who should I save first, the ones who are drowning or the ones who are just tired of rowing?” (Longfellow Deeds)

  1. Jan Kane says:

    Guy, you have such a wonderful talent with your writing. You’ve been blessed with a gift and I’m so glad you are sharing with everyone on this Blog. I look forward to what you have to think of next!

  2. Lauren says:

    I really like this one, I believe what you are saying; God has blessed all of us individually with special talents and we are to use them for his glory. God has called ALL of us to follow the great commission which says to go and make disciples. If we know the truth of the gospel we are responsible for telling others. Maybe you should write about that.

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