Life Rafts by Celeste Palermo

Fun fact: A woman designed the lifeboat used on the Titanic. Maria Beasley, an inventor, engineer and overall female phenom, held many patents, but the one she is most famous for was used to save lives. I love that a woman designed something used to drag others out of deep water, a way to save someone from drowning. Even though a lifeboat is a far cry from solid soil, still shifting and tossed with the current, its occupants have a whole lot more oxygen—and hope—than they did moments before in the perilous waters.

The pandemic has created tsunami conditions for women everywhere. The waves are tumultuous and hit over and over, like the sneaky swells that get you post boogie board ride, before you can find your footing and stand up. Just when you think you might get a breath, it knocks you down. Then again. And again.

There have been moments in my life when I felt I was drowning, frantically treading water, keeping only one nostril above the abyss. In those times, it has been my family and friends who have rescued me. They have pulled me into the life raft with their actions and love: a call, a card, flowers on my doorstep or simply sitting with me so I am not alone. It does not take much to save a life; the buoyancy of a simple gesture can be scuba for the soul.

The stormy conditions of COVID-19 have added to the generally rough seas of life. Many are just hanging on. What can we do, other than watch the news and pray? We can be life rafts. We can endeavor to lift others through our words and actions. We can be like Margaret “Unsinkable Molly” Brown and actively help lift people from the deep—with practical help and encouragement.

International Women’s Day was March 8th, with a theme of “Choose to Challenge.” Yet, one day can never do justice to all the amazing strong, women in our world. So, my challenge for the remainder of the month—or better, our lives—is to find ways to help lift women up. Perhaps we focus first on those most adversely impacted by COVID. It seems a big endeavor, but keep in mind: life rafts are more sturdy and functional than grandiose. The things that truly sustain us are not as much Nordstrom, but nachos—delicious and simple.

So, with that context, may I float some lifesaving ideas your way: Share a compliment, offer to walk a dog, babysit, send a hand-written note, sing a funny song into voicemail, text an invite to a virtual coffee (or socially-distanced happy hour), bring a meal, send chocolate. Or just show up. The power in taking the time to be with someone sends the most powerful message of all: Breathe deep. I am with you. We will navigate these uncertain waters together.


Celeste Palermo is Senior Director, Human Resources at Newmont Corporation and author of two books. You can visit her at

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