Swimming Lessons, Ghandi and Non-Violence
A few weeks ago, Church Health and the YMCA of Memphis opened an amazing new outdoor swimming pool at Crosstown Concourse. The pool will be open to all Church Health YMCA members and offer a variety of therapeutic and instructional programs. And we’ll teach underserved kids how to swim.
The first group of children to take swimming lessons were students from Perea Elementary, a school with close ties to Church Health. For me, watching the children in the water was terrifying; it felt like they could drown at any moment. But they didn’t. Instead, they had fun and they were safe.
October 2 was the 150th birthday of Mohandas Gandhi. His is the kind of birthday that is celebrated for an entire year. The whole world remembers Gandhi for his philosophy of non-violence, which so influenced Martin Luther King, Jr.
Gandhi did not see non-violence as a political strategy but as a way of life. He said, “Non-violence is not like a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. joined Gandhi in seeing non-violence as a way of being and not a merely a tactic to force a point, and he taught this thinking to those who joined his work in civil rights.
Gandhi and King both saw non-violence as a way to put love to work in order to resolve the problems caused by troubled relationships.
Non-violence, then, becomes a skill we can practice with intention, the same way we can aspire to move love into higher purpose and transform righteous anger into constructive action.
Death by drowning is a leading cause of accidental death of children in Memphis. To me, leaving children vulnerable to drowning is a violent act. Teaching children to swim is a powerful, loving expression of non-violent practice.
To honor the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth, we can look for other ways to transform our hearts and learn the skills love can teach us. Let’s begin with our own personal relationships. We first deal with the fires of anger and hatred in the world by looking into our own hearts.
Knowing how to make this shift can be hard. But one way to start is protecting children from harm—and teaching children how to swim. I think Gandhi would be pleased.