Shepherd’s crook rescue meditation

The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is the most common of the symbolic representations of Christ found in Early Christian art in the Catacombs of Rome.

And of course Psalm 23 is something like 3,000 years old.

Yesterday, when I was surfing around looking for something or other, I stumbled on to a page about how lifeguards use a tool called a shepherd’s crook to save drowning victims. Imagining myself as the victim and God as the rescuer really touched my heart, so I wanted to share.

If the person in trouble is too far from the side to reach easily while lying down, you can use a shepherd’s crook to extend your reach. Most pools should have one on the wall or at a lifeguard stand.

Dip the crook down in the water and place the curve where the victim can reach it. You might even gently try to get the victim to notice it by pushing the crook at their waist, but certainly move carefully and slowly enough that you do not hit them in the face.

If you try to rescue a victim who is struggling badly, you will have to aim the crook carefully. If they can not grab the crook, or do not see or feel it, which frequently happens, dip the crook deeper in the water and swing it around behind the victim to pull them in.

You should place the curve of the crook around the back of their chest below the armpits. Do not put it up at the neck! Slowly and carefully pull them to the side of the pool.

Please note: It is dangerous to get in the water with a panicky person. They will leap on top of and push you under. It takes a skilled lifeguard to pry apart a double drowning like that. If you’re the only rescuer available, the last place you should be is in the water with the victim. Drowning people are not rational. (Been there, done that.) If you absolutely have to swim up to a drowning victim, first grab something, anything that isn’t YOU, that you can push out in front of you for the victim to grab on to. Float board, life ring, even a towel if that’s all you have. Just don’t get close enough for them to leap on you. You’ll both end up drowning.




Filed under Christianity

11 responses to “Shepherd’s crook rescue meditation

  1. GP

    As a side note–I once was a lifeguard. The words to remember when you see a person drowning are:
    Throw! (anything at the person that floats)
    Tow! (give them a lifeline, which is why you see most lifeguards with those buoys and ropes)
    Go! (Only try to get to the person IF you are a strong and trained lifeguard and the person is unconscious and cannot try to drown you.)
    We were also trained to try to knock a person out if they are panicking.
    Needless to say, I would never try to save a man. They would overwhelm me.
    I did pull quite a few kids out of the pool who thought they could swim farther than they actually could.


  2. GP

    What do they call those hooks they used in vaudeville to get the lousy acts off stage? I would sure like to have one of those to get the obama’s out of the white house.


  3. This reminded me of something Ann Barnhardt wrote a while back about that “good shepherd” image, which I thought folks here might appreciate. It’s unfortunate that Ann’s site has no archive. I archive her frequently, but I don’t get everything, and apparently hadn’t saved this one. Fortunately, I found it had been reprinted here.

    “Long story short: When a shepherd would go out and search for a lost sheep that had wandered off, when he found the lost lamb, he would BREAK OR DISLOCATE ITS LEG, and then carry it back to the flock on his shoulders. This husbandry technique is called “hobbling.” We have all seen that image. Yeah. He wasn’t carrying it because it was fun. He was carrying the lamb because he had intentionally crippled it.…”

    Not cruel. Kind:

    Why? … First, to keep it from wandering off again. Second, in order to train it to stay with the flock. While the leg was mending, the lamb would NOT wander off and learned to stay with the fold. This was done not just to protect the straying lamb, but also to protect the rest of the flock. Sheep are very gregarious. If one is heady and heads off on some tangent, the rest of the flock might go after it instead of staying with the shepherd.

    You know, KINDA LIKE PEOPLE.

    I hadn’t known that. I imagine that old radio hound saying, “and now you know… the rest of the story.”


    • I remember reading that on Ann’s site, but I found it completely implausible — surely if a shepherd needed to keep a lamb from wandering, he/she could find a less violent and sadistic way to do so. (You can hobble an animal without breaking any of its bones or hurting it in any way.) And there’s certainly nothing in the Bible to indicate that that was what actual shepherds did. Out of curiosity I did a little search, and found that there are many people who believe that breaking the legs of lambs was common practice back in Biblical days, but not one of them was able to cite any actual evidence to support this view. There are also a lot of people who have real life experience with sheep who say it’s nonsense, and that no shepherd would ever do such a stupid thing — that it would be unnecessary, risky, and self-defeating. I incline toward the latter view. Sheep were extremely valuable to the shepherd, and I can’t imagine a shepherd deliberately crippling one of his own flock. I may be all wet, but until I see some reliable evidence (or any evidence at all!) that this was accepted practice in Biblical times, I’m just not buying it.


      • I didn’t give this as much thought as you, but my conclusion was the same. I don’t think Ann has the facts on her side here. Like she often does (even today, with the essay on flag officers), I think she was taking an essential truism and extrapolating unnecessarily to make a more dramatic point. While I think it is certainly true that people of Biblical times, shepherds included, were much less squeamish than us about death and physical harm, and may have (occasionally, possibly) practiced this, I think you’re completely right that it’s ridiculous and groundless to say it was widespread. I don’t know why she does this. Even in those cases where she may be correct, when she fails to provide a proviso or statement of uncertainty or admission of incomplete data, that’s just an invitation to mistrust her methods. I think you win this round, Bob.


        • I just remember that the first time I ever heard someone make this claim, my reaction was immediate skepticism. I’m a city girl and have no personal experience with sheep, but it’s inconceivable to me that a shepherd would deliberately cripple one. The flock needs to be able to move around, to get to the good grazing, and if one is crippled, it slows down the whole flock. If the shepherd has to carry an injured lamb everywhere, that also reduces the flock’s mobility, to say nothing of exhausting the poor shepherd. A shepherd might have to do this if a lamb is injured accidentally, but injuring one deliberately? Sorry, that would just be stupid.

          Also, for the story to work, you have to assume that out of a flock of hundreds of sheep, there’s only one who has a tendency to stray. Suppose there were several — would the shepherd cripple all of them, and then carry all of them around on his shoulders? Not likely. I’m sorry, but the whole thing strikes me as wildly implausible. If someone can cite actual reliable historical evidence that shepherds really did this, then I’ll change my mind. Otherwise, I remain skeptical.


          • Exactly. It’s also implausible that you would risk infection if you accidentally pierce the hide with the broken bone, which would certainly be a possibility. Even if *most* lambs recovered, you would lose some of them to complications. I don’t see any shepherd doing that unless it was a real pain-in-the-ass sheep that was a chronic problem. Like Barack. We should totally break his leg and see if that helps. 😀