Thursday, June 07, 2007

Life on the Coastline

Once upon a time a group of people established a lifesaving station on a dangerous seacoast where many ships had sunk and people had died. The lifesaving station volunteers repeatedly sacrificed warmth and comfort, and even physical well-being, to rescue shipwrecked people off the coastline. This gave them great joy and purpose in life. They knew they were following in the steps of the Great Lifesaver in whose memory they established the station. The shipwreck survivors usually embraced the lifesaving mission and volunteered as lifesavers.

As the lifesaving station grew, the members put up sheds for the boats and lifesaving equipment. They established training classes on lifesaving, advanced lifesaving, and theories of lifesaving. In time the lifesaving station grew into a large compound with boat sheds, living quarters, a lounge, and game rooms. Strong opinions arose among the lifesavers about the proper techniques for lifesaving: should a rescuer do the backstroke or freestyle on his way out to rescue someone? Should the lifejackets be yellow or orange? Could different lifesaving stations cooperate with one another? Who should be considered a true lifesaver?

Off the coastline the shipwrecks continued, many people perished, and the lifesaving station leaders wondered why they weren’t making a difference in this sad phenomenon.

After a while some members concluded that the lifesaving station had lost sight of its original purpose: to rescue shipwrecked swimmers! So they resigned and established a lifesaving station farther down the coast. As the years passed, the new station followed the same pattern as the old one until another group pulled away and established its own station. If you visit that seacoast today, you will find a whole series of exclusive clubs on the shore. They offer classes on lifesaving, the lifesaved life, discovering your inner lifesaver, the purpose-driven lifesaver, right and wrong techniques for lifesaving, acceptable and unacceptable types of lifesaving equipment, and raising your child to be a successful lifesaver. They even have a lifesaving coffee bar featuring vanilla and hazelnut flavors. Plus mocha.

Relatively little time and effort is spent actually rescuing people, and the number of shipwrecks and drowning deaths in the area has stayed constant even with the proliferation of lifesaving stations along the coastline.

But some lifesaving stations have begun critically examining their practices and renewing their original mission. They are calling all their volunteers to embrace and participate in actual lifesaving, not just lifesaving theory. They are simplifying their operations and asking themselves continually, “How will this help us save lives? This simplicity and focus has galvanized and inspired the lifesaving station members, who were getting bored with all the activities anyway and wondering why they never actually rescued anyone. People are discovering the joy of lifesaving again. More people are being rescued. It is a beautiful thing.


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