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When the Whistle Blows


It's summertime! And where there are swimming pools, there are bodies of all sizes and shapes diving, paddling, bobbing, and floating in the refreshing water. And there is most likely a lifeguard. Swimmers can trust that the person with the whistle, whether male or female, has been trained and is at the ready to preserve safety and order at the pool.

Coaches, referees, and public safety officers also don that little piece of metal on a string. It's a powerful signal when used. Most often it means "stop!" as in "stop running," "stop the action," or "stop because someone just violated the rules"! We hear it and comply. It is intended to get our attention. When the whistle blows, we listen.

In the mid to late sixties, human beings coined a term now widely used and understood - whistleblower. But this term's usage isn't confined to the sporting arena or swimming pool. Business. Government. Human relations and interactions. When corruption is spotted, or illegal activity detected, or some variation on the theme of abuse goes unchecked, brave and bold women and men speak up and out in hopes of getting someone's attention. Whistleblowers are seldom popular figures in the public's eye. But they certainly could be considered courageous.

In the early eighties, singer-songwriter John Denver wrote a song titled What One Man Can Do. Ok, that was the early eighties. We know he meant "what one person can do." Some of the lyrics are "It's hard to tell the truth when no one wants to listen, when no one really cares what's going on. And it's hard to stand alone when you need someone beside you; your spirit and your faith must be strong."

It's never comfortable to speak a hard truth, to share an honest observation, to point out a harmful reality. But unless we are interested in living in a world where civility isn't important and ethical behavior holds no merit and the welfare and wellbeing of all living things is of no consequence, we need brave and bold people to keep us straight. And when the whistle blows, we do well to pay attention. Playing nice has its place. But being led by leaders who only say what people want to hear whether it is remotely related to the truth or not will ultimately do more harm than good. Friends, our purpose on earth isn't primarily to be popular. Do we have the courage to tell the truth even if it means standing alone in a culture that seems to be swimming in dangerous waters?

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