I felt like the worst parent on the planet.

On a trip to Disney World, my son accidentally poured a scalding cup of coffee on his foot. And in a motherly panic, I ripped off his sock, along with the first layer of skin.

As he screamed in pain—and I was internally blaming myself for this disaster— my Mom quickly helped me get him to the E.R. where we could have him cleaned up and bandaged. The doctor on-call told us it was safe to head back into the park, and we ended up having a truly memorable and fun day.

Reflecting back on that scary moment, I realize now that I was unprepared physically and emotionally for what transpired. Having four kids in four years had a way of making me feel like I was “spread thin” ALL THE TIME.

But life lessons often come out of these trying circumstances—if you’re paying close attention.

And like the lessons I learned—thanks to an overpowering rip current—there are valuable parallels to life even when you’re feeling pretty defeated.

(If you haven’t read my posts on S.O.A.R., then start here.)

Along with the privilege of being a mom, I’ve also had the incredible opportunity to help train junior lifeguards. In my efforts to help them remember the first steps when faced with someone in distress, I came up with another useful acronym. It’s R.I.S.E.

junior lifeguards learning cpr

In simplest terms, R.I.S.E. refers to a productive MINDSET to have—whether you’re a lifeguard OR you’re faced with a troubling life moment.

I’ll give you a sneak peek into the whole acronym, 👇🏼  but today I’d like to “unpack” what the first letter means:



Stay warm


Lifeguards are trained to be first responders. So the word RESPOND might seem a bit redundant or obvious.

But we are human.

And difficult or frightening circumstances can make any of us want to run in the other direction. Or, at the very least, we might be tempted to ignore situations we don’t want to get involved with. That’s why I think it’s an important reminder to RESPOND.

On that day that I felt like a horrible Mom, and my son was crying from his painful burn, I was so grateful for my Mom’s willingness to take control and respond appropriately.

Donna's son with bandaged foot

My son on that day with a bandaged foot but a big smile… Thanks, Mom and Tigger!

There are times in life when you might be tired and overwhelmed (I think that’s where I was), and your first reaction is to freeze, cry, or deny the need to jump in with a healthy response.

Of course, it’s always critical to assess a situation first but then quickly respond. Here are some examples of times we might need to be reminded to respond:

  • A friend is struggling, and you are reluctant to get involved
  • Someone is not treating you well, and it seems easier just to ignore
  • You’re feeling stuck in an unhealthy habit and know you need to make a change

RESPONDING is that first step. And we all know that it can be the most difficult. But I have found that once you do it, the momentum can give you the strength to push through toward safety, health, and a stronger, YOU.

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Be sure to check back next time when I dig a little deeper into the “I” part of RISE. If you want to always be one of the first to read my blog posts, sign up for our monthly newsletter on the bottom of this page.