They drowned the turtle. What plans have you destroyed with the best of intentions?



We were at the park and saw a family kill a turtle.

It was death by the very best of intentions.

I don’t know about you, but I have destroyed or at least debilitated quite a bit under the guise of good intentions.

This just happened to be a turtle. The kind that sometimes wanders into the yard here in the South or you veer to avoid in the road.



Roger and I were at Freedom Park, a lovely and large place here in the heart of Charlotte with a pond in the middle. The wide sidewalk around the pond is roughly a mile’s walk. It is a big place. The park teams with families walking, children biking, mother’s strolling and joggers.   Frequently dodging an errant child on a scooter or lose Frisbee, it’s a bustling place. A thick grassy strip sits between the sidewalk and the water with benches and tables. Perfect for picnics and family outings on a sunny afternoon.

The pond’s vertical edge is concrete and stone with a 2 feet drop from the top edge to the water, straight down with no slope, no steps, no breaks and no way to crawl out.


We were sitting on a bench close to the water enjoying the day, behind us a family approached.

As they drew closer, we heard their conversation centering on a turtle. The family of four positioned themselves in front of us at the water’s edge. Close enough that we had a front row seat to the drama playing out.

A mom with exuberant energy working to sound convincing, He will be so happy here. See? This is much better than living in that box in your room.

A boy, about 6, in a plaid shirt and jean shorts and holding a turtle, Are you sure? The quivering lip gave him away.

The man acting dadlike, leaned down, rubbed the boys back and offered in a soothing voice, Turtles love water. This is perfect! There is even a fountain. He is going to just love it here.

Then older sister obviously trying to be helpful,  He’ll be able to play with all his other turtle friends.

We could see the boy holding the top of a turtle. The high shell and pattern were very familiar, a box turtle.

The kind of turtle my young self put in a shoebox along with enough lettuce and carrots to cover the bottom of the box and the turtle, too. I guess I thought he was hungry. It would munch away until my mom made me return him to the woods behind our house.

This turtle lives in the WOODS! A box turtle doesn’t live in the water.

Go ahead now, Dad said and nodded to the water.

At that, the boy sulked to the edge and dropped the turtle in. Plop!

He is sinking! Yelps the boy.

That’s ok, he can swim and he is happy. Good job! I’m proud of you, Mom said through a smile and hugged his shoulders.

The happy little family linked hands and walked away with no realization of the death left in their wake.

The ripples created by the turtle splash lapped against the stone walled edge. Roger and I stared at the spot in the water, helpless, where the turtle disappeared. We looked at each other, “That turtle’s a goner.”

The water was too deep to reach in and save him. He might eventually come up for air but without a way out, his time was up.

With the absolute best of intentions.

Life passes quickly and I find it is in speedy over drive with every passing year.

I am absolutely going to eat right beginning Monday and begin working out every morning beginning next week after things settle down and I really am going to send birthday cards to everyone this year and eat lunch with this list of friends at least once a month AND I am going to make sure and check in with mom every day and these folks at least once a week.

And so it goes…

I have made and killed every one of these intentions more than once.

What have you done? I don’t think I am the only one with lofty goals and less than lofty follow-through.

This story leaves me with a more solemn question. Is there anyone I have hurt by not meeting my intentions? I haven’t killed anyone but have I killed some feelings by omission?

Daily, I take two steps forward and one step backward on my journey toward whole health. It isn’t easy. Life gets in the way.

The older I get and the more I experience friends and family dealing with illness and tragedy, the more I appreciate how fragile and precious life is and want so badly to stick to my goals of healthy prevention and social intention.

As Anne Frank wrote:

How wonderful it is that no one wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

We all might have killed a few intentions, but how wonderful it is that we don’t have to wait a single moment before trying again.

Good luck to you as you journey toward your intentions!