Lifeguards and Sharks

I worked as a lifeguard for a couple of summers when I was in high school. It was an awesome job. I worked at a private pool and, except for the 4th of July when the pool was full of people and Daycare Fridays when the pool was full of kids, the normal weekday crowd amounted to a few regulars and their kids. The pool had a very “homey-quality” to it. People would offer me lunch from the picnics they brought and my break-time was usually spent playing Shark in the deep end of the pool.

I received my lifeguard certification through the American Red Cross. I can still remember how to do the lifeguard crawl and the scissor kick rescue, but the thing that I remember most about the training was a question that the course instructor, Calvin, asked halfway through the weeks long course. “If you see two people in the pool, one who is face-down and not moving and another who is obviously in trouble, but is thrashing and kicking and fighting to stay above the water, who do you rescue first?”

My answer was that I would rescue the person who wasn’t moving, thinking that the other guy still has enough energy to fight and I, being 15 years-old with Aquaman like swimming abilities, could drag the motionless person out of the water and then go back to help the person who was still struggling.

“Wrong!” Calvin answered. “The one who isn’t moving could be dead already and you’re going to use a lot of energy and waste a lot of time to save a dead man. While you’re “saving” the dead guy, the one who is struggling could lose his battle also. You’re going to end up dragging two dead guys out of the pool on your watch, Jammy. First, you save the one who is still fighting with every thing in them to stay above the water, then you go do whatever you can for the other.”

I’ve thought about writing this post for a few weeks, then Jeff Gardner preached a message about community last Sunday that really highlighted our need for each other, for relationships, for people to help us and encourage us in our struggles.

I’m a huge introvert. I keep A LOT of stuff inside, hidden away from most of you, and you’ve got stuff of your own – sure problems and struggles, but you also have ideas and dreams – that you keep to yourself. You have lifeguards in your life who are there to help. Your spouse, your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers – they probably don’t twirl a whistle and sit on a chair five feet off the ground, but they’re there. If you’ve got all your stuff hidden, though, you look like a dead guy in a pool to a lifeguard, and the people who are there to help will move along to the person who is showing signs of a fight.

You’ve got to be a little vulnerable to overcome struggles and accomplish dreams, and you’ve got to believe you have more lifeguards than sharks in your life.

Go be awesome. Have a great Friday.

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