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The Need for a Plimsoll Line on Our Calendars

Mike Woodruff, Lake Forest, Illinois; sources: “Samuel Plimsoll - the seaman's friend,” BBC.Co.Uk (5-19-08); “A Cheer for Samuel Plimsoll,” 99% Invisible

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The Need for a Plimsoll Line on Our Calendars

One of the more memorable—and unique—illustrations about rest, involves a 19th century British politician named Samuel Plimsoll. The advent of insurance in the 19th century, created an incentive for ship owners to purposely sink their own ships and collect the insurance money. This grim practice became so widespread, and killed so many merchant seamen, that the over-insured, overloaded vessels became known as “coffin ships.” Plimsoll followed evangelical campaigner William Wilberforce by applying his Christian faith and a biblical view of justice to this issue. In 1868, at Sheffield's Fulwood Chapel he announced he would “do all in his power to put an end to the unseaworthy ships owned by the greedy and the unscrupulous.” Plimsoll crusaded for legislation to prevent it.

In 1873, under Plimsoll’s leadership, Parliament passed the Merchant Shipping Act, which required all ships to have a line painted around their hulls (a Plimsoll Line). From then on—and to this day—vessels had to display the Plimsoll Mark, a loadline, painted clearly on their hulls, showing how deep they could safely sit in the water and preventing overloading. If it was below the waterline the ship was overloaded and the owners fined.

Possible Preaching Angle: Busyness; Burnout; Pride; Stress – Each of us has a load limit. In his book The Overload Syndrome, Dr. Richard Swensen writes, “We are exceeding our limits in scores of areas all at the same time. From activity overload to choice overload to debt overload to expectation overload to information overload to work overload, we are a piled-on margins society.” We all need our own Plimsoll Line painted on our calendars.

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