A 5-year-old boy drowned at Woodbury’s Carver Lake Park. There are no longer lifeguards at the beach, and although the Public Safety folks organized a human chain to find him and performed heroic resuscitative efforts, the little boy died at the trauma center.
Media coverage of the July 8 event included an interview with Parks and Recreation Director Bob Klatt, who indicated that the withdrawal of lifeguards was at least partly a budget decision. I responded to the article online, noting that as a Woodbury resident I was disappointed that this fiscal decision was made in such a prosperous community.
I was taken aback by the responses my comments drew. Multiple people stated that parents should watch their own kids and that “we” shouldn’t have to pay for the lifeguards. None of these people was from my town, so I responded saying that it was not a pro-life decision and that the city could afford teen-aged lifeguards for the summer (probably cheaper than the rescue and resuscitation). Again, people responded that parents should watch their own kids and be charged with law-breaking if they didn’t. Others bragged that they were more responsible than the grieving parents of the 5-year-old.
An all-too-common response
Sadly, I think this NIMBY response is becoming all too common and is responsible for a decline in our communities. I’ve read comments from people stating they have no responsibility for paying for: supplementary care for children with severe disabilities (that’s their parents’ job and we never did it before); insurance premiums for pregnancy because they are men; decent salaries for teachers (they get the summer off); famine aid; refugee resettlement; mental health crisis services …
The same week this little kid was lost to us, more than 80 people in Florida risked their own lives to pull in a family swept away by a riptide. Their efforts were celebrated nationwide, as are regular acts of heroism and generosity by individuals across the country. When the opportunity presents, Americans can be selfless life-savers — so why the resistance to hiring a couple of teenagers to sit in the empty lifeguard stand at Carver Beach?
Are folks so protective of the possessions they own and their own families that they can no longer reach out to others? Is selfishness the baseline that is only crossed in extraordinary circumstances by extraordinary individuals? Can we no longer see the value in working together and pooling our resources? Does the meanness in our politics makes us meaner or does our newfound nastiness breed even more nastiness in our politicians?
Once proud of our Minnesota Miracle
Minnesotans used to be so proud of the Miracle that equalized school funding statewide and of the politicians who reached across the aisle to make sure that children were educated, roads were built, and taxes were levied so that together we paid for the range of services that made this a well-run state. Minnesota leaders rose to national prominence on the strength of their experience with good government.
Now we have a speaker of the House who installed a mute button to silence members of the opposite party and such legislative strife that even simple acts like bonding bills languish. The lifeguard stand in our state government is as empty as the one at Carver Beach. Let’s watch our kids together!
That 5-year-old kid was mine not by birth or adoption, but by shared life in Minnesota. I ask you and all Minnesotans to realize that the kids of this state need to be important to all of us. We need to put lifeguards in the chairs, teachers in the classrooms, and leaders in the Capitol to keep all of our kids safe and thriving. Minnesotans, this is how we watch our own kids!
Beth-Ann Bloom is a mom, genetic counselor, and community volunteer from Woodbury. She is not a strong swimmer.
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