August 15, 2012

Doing What's Right

Tomas Lopez, 21, didn’t stop to consider the consequences to himself on July 2 when he rushed outside his lifeguarding zone to save a drowning man on an unprotected section of Hallandale Beach in Florida.* Hailed a hero by most, his employer, Jeff Ellis and Associates, an aquatic safety contractor, took a different view and fired him for his actions—along with six colleagues who supported him. 

“We have liability issues and can’t go out of the protected area,” a company spokesperson said.

Fellow lifeguard Zoard Janko, one of those who backed Lopez’s decision and also was fired, explained it differently: “What we’re basically supposed to do is watch them die,” he said.

Lopez and his colleagues are unemployed because they chose to follow their conscience and do what they believed was right—and Lopez was previously well aware of the consequences:

“I knew I broke the rules,” he said. “I told the manager, ‘I’m fired, aren’t I?’ ” 

Later the same week Jeff Ellis and Associates succumbed to public pressure and told Lopez he could have his job back, but it was an offer Lopez refused.

A preacher I heard many years ago repeated the same phrase numerous times throughout his sermon: “Do what’s right because it is right, and leave the consequences with the Lord.” The repetition seemed needlessly redundant at the time, but it fulfilled the pastor’s purpose—I’ve never forgotten the phrase, and the words have come to mind countless times throughout my life.

Integrity often seems in short supply today, so it’s refreshing when the best in people such as Lopez is exemplified. It also gives the rest of us pause for self-reflection and an opportunity to ask ourselves the question “Would I do the same?” 


Sandra Blacker is features editor for the Adventist Review. This article was published August 16, 2012.