Monday, October 31, 2011
The Emergent Lifeguard!
Keeping up with Christian trends has been challenging, to say the least. It seems that church leaders discussion leaders facilitators, having taken a page from Hollywood, ad agencies and popular culture in general, constantly stir the pot in an effort to, as they put it, 'reflect the culture around' them. While generations past, as well as the writings of the Apostles … and the rest of the Bible, come to think of it, felt the Church should reflect Christ, the emergent voices for Christianity have eschewed that notion in favor of customer identification.
As it turns out, however, lifeguarding has a new branch that appears to be following suit (no pun intended) to stay current (pun sort of intended) with their swimmers. I had a chance to sit down with the man who has championed what he calls The Emergent Lifeguard.
Bryn: So, Mitch, you have developed a new lifeguarding technique, is that right?
Mitch: Yes, yes I have. I found the old school of lifeguarding, you know, the one that was used, like 50 years ago, to be off-putting to many beach-goers. I mean, who wants to have some stoic square sitting in a wooden tower … watching you all the time? It's rather creepy when you think about it.
Bryn: Tell us more about your vision. How is your program different?
Mitch: Thank you for asking, Bryn. See, we found that some beaches and pools that had signs 'No Lifeguard On Duty' were actually getting more attendance than the beaches with lifeguards.
Bryn: But those are generally free beaches, too, right?
Mitch: I think that's really beside the point, don't you?
Mitch: Trust me, it's beside the point. Anyway, we decided to try out different things-we had the lifeguards get rid of the red shorts and white shirts. That style has been around since my grandmother went swimming. We also changed out the cross for a fish. The cross just had too many negative stereotypes, you know? And the fish, well, it's more encouraging. It sort of tells swimmers, 'you can do it!'
Mitch: I like it, too. But that was really just a step in the right direction. We then took down the towers completely!
Bryn: Aren't the towers meant for the guards to see struggling swimmers?
Mitch: See, we don't like to call it 'struggling.' We prefer to say they're 'finding their own stroke.'
Bryn: So, wouldn't the towers help your guards see the swimmers 'finding their own strokes?'
Mitch: The towers are very intimidating. Think about it, what do you think of when you hear the word tower?
Mitch: Castles! Dungeons! Prisons! That's not making swimmers feel comfortable. And when they're not comfortable, they will just not come to the water, right?
Bryn: So, tell me how the guards identify who needs help.
Mitch: It's far more relational, Bryn. We all need help, right?
Bryn: I suppose you're right to an-
Mitch: And the best way to help someone is to be there, not hovering over them, stifling them. And that's why we have our guards hang out on the beach. They put out a towel, lube up and lie back for a good tan.
Bryn: So, who's watching the swimmers?
Bryn: Okay, let's put it this way … what happens if one of your guards sees a swimmer, uh, finding his or her own stroke?
Mitch: Well, first, we encourage the swimmer to experiment. Maybe they'll discover a better way to swim, who knows? They might be the next big swim teacher! We wouldn't want to snuff that out.
Bryn: All right, so, the swimmer goes under. You think they might drown.
Mitch: We don't really believe in drowning.
Mitch: Have you ever seen anyone drown?
Bryn: No, but-
Mitch: Neither have I. They say it on the news, but I've never drowned. And who's to say these people didn't die of something else while they were in the water? As far as I'm concerned, drowning is an old superstition. We need to get past that.
Bryn: Then why have guards at all?
Mitch: I'm not following you.
Bryn: Do your guards ever go into the water?
Mitch: Absolutely! We sometimes go out to swimmers who are finding their own stroke and see if we can learn what they're doing. We flap our arms around, go under, swallow water, all of that.
Bryn: So, you pretend you're drowning.
Mitch: We don't believe in drowning. We're meeting the swimmer where they are. We're showing them that we're just like them. And as a result, our beaches attract huge crowds. We've been beaching the unbeached all over. People who never would have gone to beach have decided to come. It's happening!
Bryn: Does the increased attendance have anything to do with the women guards wearing bikinis? In fact, it says here that most of your guards are female, petite and, well, shapely.
Mitch: That's correct. We found that large men intimidated other men who didn't want to come to the beach as a result. It had a positive effect on single women, but we were losing a whole demographic of single men and insecure couples. By using a larger number of petite female guards, interspersed with medium sized male guards, we found the right mix.
Bryn: But these women, could they really pull a male swimmer in?
Mitch: They sure reel them in, I'll tell you that! Ha ha. Oh, wait, in what way were you meaning that?
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