The Distracted Lifeguard

By David Armstrong

The weather at the beach was especially beautiful that day, drawing an exceptionally large crowd of swimmers, surfers, and sunbathers. The lifeguard in his tower glanced periodically at the happy children building sandcastles and splashing in the shore break. He swept his eyes across the rolling surf and admired the style of an accomplished wave rider.

Most of the time, however, he focused his attention on the game on his cell phone. In three hours, he had advanced fifteen levels. Only three levels to go and he would beat the game. He reclined in the shade of the tower, his thumbs moving with lightning speed across the screen.

A commotion on the beach briefly caught his attention. Yells reached his ears, but he kept his eyes on the game as the action on the screen intensified. Calls for help interrupted his concentration for a moment, but he doubled down on his attention to the game, determined to pass the present obstacle and reach the next level.

A frantic mother beat her fists on the tower platform and shouted through tears, “Please help! My daughter is caught in a riptide and is being swept out to sea. Nobody can reach her. Please save her!”

The lifeguard glanced into the woman’s frantic eyes. “Just a minute. I’ll be right there.” He was so close to breaking through to the next level. Two more moves and he would be there. He looked up long enough to see the tiny figure thrashing about out past the breakers. He knew he could get to her. She wasn’t too far away yet.

A punch, a jab, a quick thrust, and he beat the demon that blocked his path. The next level was his! He looked up to see the mother running across the sand toward the water. He grabbed his binoculars and scanned the water where he had seen the girl just a moment before. She had disappeared. The lifeguard pulled off his windbreaker and sandals, picked up his torpedo buoy, climbed down from the tower, and trotted toward the waves.

As he plunged into the water, he felt the strength of the riptide pulling him away from shore and into deep water. He scanned the surface before him as each swelled raised his head, but there was no sign of the stranded girl.

He searched the area for fifteen minutes until his strength was spent. By then, the riptide had subsided, and he paddled wearily to shore. He approached the sobbing mother, surrounded now by a large crowd of anxious onlookers.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “There was nothing I could do.” The mother collapsed. The onlookers gasped.

The lifeguard, shaken and exhausted, trudged back to the tower, dried himself off, and returned to his phone.

Photo by Pixabay on

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4 thoughts on “The Distracted Lifeguard

  1. Maerhwyn 12 June 2022 / 9:33 am

    This parable seems totally farfetched at first, because what lifeguard would actually ignore a drowning child when that’s literally the whole point of his being there. But isn’t that what we do every day? Too busy to text your neighbor, too busy to call your mother, too busy to have a one-on-one chat with your child, too busy to volunteer at church or elsewhere. How many people are spiritually drowning, and we’re too busy to notice?


    • Ben Minson 12 June 2022 / 3:53 pm

      Or perhaps worse, we’re too distracted by things of much lower importance? Thanks for your comment!


  2. Kay 11 September 2022 / 10:08 am

    That is sad. 😦


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