We are getting to that time of year when the weather starts to warm up, and more Kiwis head to the beach and pools to swim, splash, have fun and cool down. However, we had 90 people die of drowning in New Zealand in 2021. We all know to swim between the flags at surf beaches, but our amazing surf lifesavers aren’t at every beach in New Zealand. They cover more than 80 beaches across Aotearoa, with nearly 4500 lifeguards. Public pools have lifeguards watching over their patrons, but most kiwis swim in private pools and at non-patrolled beaches.
Many parents of my generation believe that swimming lessons are a vital part of growing up in New Zealand. They are a common and costly part of children’s extra-curricular activities. Some schools still have pools, and some primary schools offer swimming lessons in class time, even if this means bussing kids off-site to a nearby facility for a short burst of lessons. We do need to be careful to remember as parents that even kids who have swimming lessons still need close supervision when in water.
Drowning can happen, so suddenly and you really need your eyes on kids the whole time. I’ve had a couple of scary incidences, and I make sure I always have another adult with me, with four children in water, particularly because I am not a very strong swimmer myself. Having a healthy respect for water and its dangers will help to keep our kids safe in the water. Wearing lifejackets is an important practice to role-model and enforce; to me, it is just like wearing a seat belt in the car, it’s not negotiable.
There is an issue around equity when it comes to accessing swimming lessons. They are costly, especially for large families, let alone scheduling lessons to make them all as close together or overlapping as possible! Our country is surround by water, literally; we are an island nation after all, and it’s vital that everyone learns water safety, if not swimming skills. We all need to be vigilant around pools and any water, even baths, to watch children so as to avoid drowning. It can certainly happen very quickly.
Water features frequently in the Bible, and fishing and boating is an important part of the lives of the disciples. We all know the parable of Jesus calming the storm on the lake and the fisherman catching nothing all night, yet getting an amazing catch when they put the nets out where Jesus tells them. Then Jesus invites his disciples to join him in Mark 1:1-7; “Jesus says ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’”. The river Jordan is an important landmark in the New Testament. The baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan by John is a powerful image of humility. Matthew 3:16-17; “As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’.”
Water plays a pivotal role in the starting of the Christian journey. We are baptised by water to symbolically wash away our sins. One of my favourite verses from John is, “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be, in him, a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:14).” Water is vital for our human life, and here is Jesus saying it is vital for our spiritual life and well-being.
“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).
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