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The Accident that Brought Development to Light

Jim and I have a 21 foot San Juan sailboat – Amada (Beloved) and we are learning to sail. During the last few years we had to get rescued several times as we learned to move with the wind. Yesterday we were able to help someone!

Lake Yosemite was beautiful, a nice wind, warm temperatures and really cold water…. Just about perfect! We were excited to be on the lake. We usually turn our cellphones off, void of all distractions we have time to talk, think, pray and just enjoy the event while we move back and forth on the lake.

While Jim was waiting for me he helped a dad and his two preteen boys get his small sailboat ready. Dad had grown up on boats and having much experience with sailing he wanted his boys to experience it as well. While we were on the lake we looked around for them but didn’t see a sailboat.

Instead we saw a capsized boat with 3 people stranded on top of it. As we made our way toward the family we devised a plan to get the boys into our boat. We used our cellphone to call the Sheriff to come and help with the overturned boat.

We had to make several passes to get the boys, but in the end they were with us. Dad stayed and waited for the Sheriff to turn his boat right-side-up so that he could get back to shore as we circled and talked with the boys about the steps dad was taking to turn his boat over. They were able to save a few things but much of their snacks, shoes and drinks were lost at sea.

The wind on the lake is unpredictable and a gust of wind had blown his boat over and the mast had gotten stuck in the sand. There was nothing dad could do than wait for someone to move him out of the mud.

The sheriff came and it took several maneuvers and at one time they pulled too hard and the boat went over on the other side….. but conversations and cooperation made it possible for the boat to come loose and dad was able to sail his boat safely into the harbor and was reunited with his boys.

As I was reflecting on this encounter I thought that community development is a little like this:

  • Everyone has amazing gifts and experiences and wants to share them.

  • Sometimes all the best planning just does not keep things from going sideways.

  • Sometimes the winds of life can move us to a point where we can’t help ourselves.

  • When we get stuck in the sand it is worth asking for help – sometimes we need others.

  • Sometimes it takes several approaches to get out of the mud and right side up again.

  • Even when we need help, we oftentimes already know what needs to be done, but need additional resources.

  • When we accept the help it does not mean we are helpless. We are part of the solution.

  • When the ‘crisis’ is over, the person can move ahead and ‘steer the boat’ themselves.

  • It does not have to be an embarrassment; it can be a learning experience.

But too often this is not the picture we get to see; imagine it another way, not as a community effort, but as a program -

Dad takes his kids out for a boat ride. He is prepared but the unimaginable happens and the boat capsizes. A ‘rescue crew’ comes along and thinks that dad is very irresponsible (because they don’t know the whole picture – they don’t know how experienced he is, how he prepared the kids, and that they are wearing their lifejackets). They only see a father putting his children in danger…and so they come to the rescue. They take the kids in their boat, care for them, feed them, and send them to a ‘better family’. Dad on the other hand is waiting to get some help in turning his boat right side up, but authorities realize that it is a ‘bad’ boat and should not be used any longer since it caused this problem in the first place. Dad is being punished for his neglect and loses his resources (boat) as well as the respect of his children.

As all pictures this is not perfect, but you get the idea!

As the boys reunited with dad we complimented dad on his handling of the boat, his great ideas to turn it, and his wisdom in being prepared. Crisis in life happens, how we respond to it makes all the difference!

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