There once was a swim club in a certain town. It was very popular because everyone in town wanted to be a good swimmer. The founders of the club had worked very hard to raise the money and do the work of building a beautiful swimming pool inside a very stylish building. They developed programs for every age group to promote the sport of swimming. Club members volunteered hundreds of hours teaching the principles of swimming in class rooms, getting into the water and showing how to swim, and meeting with other clubs where people loved to swim. The doors were open to anyone and everyone who wanted to have an opportunity to get wet. Children from the neighborhood felt welcome and loved to stop by after school, or go for dip on a summer day. There was always someone there to teach them, and a life guard was present at all times. It just felt great being a part of something that was so good for you and helped other people so much.
Over the years, subsequent members donated their time, talent and money to keep the club “afloat” so to speak. It was not too difficult because everyone believed in swimming, and everyone wanted to be known as a swimmer. And because of that, people sacrificed and did whatever it took to keep the swim club going. Over the years thousands of children had learned to swim and an even greater number of adults maintained their swimming skills by being a part of the swim club. No one could imagine the community without it.
But as time passed, the initial enthusiasm of the founders was lost on the most recent members who took the swim club for granted. “Everyone already knows how to swim,” they said to each other. The pool and the building began to show some wear, and many of the programs were no longer available. “Somebody should do something about that,” people could be heard saying as they were on their way to the golf course (a new club that had started in the area). People stopped swimming as much as they once did, because they were so busy with other activities that were now available. People stopped giving and working to keep the swim club up. The club also struggled to find people who would give lessons, be life guards, start new classes, and many other jobs that needed done. “Other people are much better at swimming than I am,” someone said, “Ask them to give lessons.” It didn’t matter that children were not learning what they needed to know. So, a few people ended up trying to do everything. The same people who were lifeguards tried to teach swimming lessons, recruit new people for classes, clean the facility and even bring refreshments for the events. They did all this while everyone else sat back and watched them do it. Repeated pleas for help to the members were of no avail, because most of the members now thought that the club was there to serve them and have their needs met, instead of meeting the needs of others. If the director of the swim club, whom they saw as their employee, did not occasionally call on them or notice when they were having a problem, they became upset. Subsequently, they had lost the vision of reaching new people and teaching them to swim. Somehow it didn’t seem important anymore. Truth be told, they didn’t really want new people coming to “their” club. Someone said, “People who don’t already know how to swim shouldn’t be allowed in here.” Eventually, even the faithful few burned out, and it looked as though the swim club might have to close its doors.
Someone suggested removing people from membership who no longer came to swim, and were not willing to donate or work to help keep the club going. But, oh, such a howl went up! People were indignant that anyone would insinuate that they were not good members just because they were busy and could not help with what needed to be done. “We’ve been members for years, and our parents and grandparents belonged here,” they wailed. Being known as a swimmer and a member of the swim club was very, very important to them.
Everyone still wanted to be known as a member of the swim club, and they also wanted to be considered a good swimmer — even if they no longer went for a swim.