Thinking Out Loud

May 14, 2010

Who is Qualified to Save a Life?

Tyler didn’t mind cleaning up the pool change rooms so much as he minded doing it alone.   The lifeguards and other pool staff always left him to finish up; and although they didn’t really talk to him much, they at least considered him responsible enough to have a key to the building.

The plan was that by working as the evening janitor he had an “in” to get one of the coveted positions as a lifeguard.   There was always a lot of turnover as many of the guards went out of town to college, but there was also a lot of competition for positions as they became available, so the janitor strategy had a lot of merit.  As a lifeguard, he’d be part of their crowd, and would get to go out for fast food with them after closing time.

He had passed all the swimming tests with flying colors, but had found out two days prior that he came up one right answer short on the written part of the lifesaving test required by the state.   It was a crushing defeat.  It would be at least a month now before he could redo the exam, and it would be known that he failed the first attempt.   Tyler wondered if other applicants who passed lifesaving the first time out would look better than the guy who had been “doing time” on cleanup, but didn’t pass the exam straightaway.    He felt like he just didn’t measure up, and he wondered if the guards at the burger place were talking about his failing the written part of the test.

Running the damp mop back and forth on the concrete floor of the restroom part of the guys’ change area was the worst.   Little boys didn’t seem to care where the pee landed, but eventually the pungent smell of urine gave way to the pungent smell of chlorine bleach.   Tyler wasn’t too sure which was worse, but the floor was complete, although it was far from sterile.

As he put the bucket and mop away in the utility closet he noticed the little girl in the pool area.   There had been a problem with teenagers sneaking over the fence on hot nights, but this was different because (a) she was much younger, (b) she couldn’t possibly vault the fence, (c) it wasn’t yet sunset, and (d) she was by herself.

Using the railing and steps she was halfway into the water when he yelled out at her, “How did you get in here?”

She pointed at a small bend in the bottom of the fence near the shallow end.   He’d seen it before and a small dog had gotten in once, but never did anyone figure a human could do what this girl had done without getting cut or badly scratched.

By now she was up to her neck.   Tyler figured her for about eight years old.   “You’re breaking the law by breaking in here, and besides, swimming alone is just plain stupid.   Time to go.”

She turned around and started up the pool stairs.

Tyler locked the bleach in the chemical cupboard and then locked the utility cupboard.   Since the girl hadn’t come inside the building, he figured he’d watch to see how see would exit back through the bent chain link fence.

But she wasn’t there.

He went to lock the door, but realized he needed to make sure she wasn’t hiding behind the outdoor cupboard used to store pool noodles and flutter boards.    That’s when he noticed her, face down in the deep end, not moving.   He thought he saw some blood coming from her head, and figured she had slipped getting out — or had jumped back in for a defiant full immersion — even though he hadn’t heard a scream or a splash.

He knew right away what he had to do, but for one brief moment he considered the possibility that he was a failure at lifesaving.   That he was unqualified.   That he wasn’t good enough. That the state deemed him unfit at the skill immediately required.   However the moment passed when he considered that he was the only hope the little girl had.  He kicked off his sandals and jumped in.

…All around us there are people in need of rescue.    But too many times, Christ-followers refuse to jump in to help because they are too conscious of their own inadequacies.   Too cognizant of the times they have failed.   Too often reminded of the tests they faced in the past where they came up one right answer short.

If holiness, or more accurately sanctification is sinless perfection, they await for the day they will achieve it, or at least something close.  Something better than the current condition of their heart.   “Then;” they say, “I will be fit for this area of service, or that area of public ministry, or that type of personal evangelism.”   “Then;” they figure, “I will be the kind of person who is qualified to provide counsel to someone who is need.”

Until then, they pass on opportunities to become engaged in the rescue process.   They face that moment of hesitation like Tyler did, but instead of kicking off their sandals, they decide that nobody’s life is hanging in the balance at that exact moment,  and besides, there are people who are able to do a better job of it.

Guess what?   People need your help right now.

Paul Wilkinson


  1. Bill,

    I’m sorry you’ve been hurt and I appreciate your willingness to meet the guidelines by attempting to post under an actual name.

    But this blog post has nothing whatsoever to do with Christians judging other Christians. It was actually borne out of an intense conversation I had today with someone who has faced a time of brokenness. It was posted twelve hours later than usual because I believe that God was holding the space for the story and application to crystallize.

    I’m sorry that I can’t or don’t live up to your expectations — which is the topic of this post — but there are many other Christian blogs and I encourage you to redirect your readership to those whose authorship you can respect.

    I will not post or respond to any future comments from you.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 14, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

  2. great story, paul, and great moral. is this a wilkinson original?

    Comment by randy morgan — May 14, 2010 @ 11:02 pm

    • I wondered if anyone would ask that so I signed it, but in the bottom right corner.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 14, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

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