Quite recently one of the Christian men's groups I enjoy attending had a Coolangatta Life Saver speak and I could not but be impressed with the history of life saving on the Gold Coast and the numbers of people's lives saved.
Apparently there is a rip that converts into a current at Snapper Rocks sending surfers all the way to Kirra Beach. Locals have known since 'for ever' (as it were) and its nothing to see surfers walking from Kirra along the Coolangatta boardwalk back to Snapper Rocks.
Should the surfer find themselves in the wrong area in the surf at Snapper Rocks (where each February one the World Surfing Championship Roxy Pro Am events are held) they are conversant enough with the tide to know that the process to is to go with the current and it will deliver them to Kirra Beach without fail.
There is another current that is alive and well at the other end of Kirra Beach and it is far more dangerous. If a swimmer gets caught in this rip it will take you well out into the ocean and if you know what you're about, you will end up at Surfers Paradise but that is a several hour experience.
This is where drownings occur and it's not that uncommon to have the life savers doing their volunteer duty and saving lives. We were given account after account of such, many of which were detailed in media news presentations.
The http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surf_Life_Saving_Australia' target="_blank">Surf Life Saving movement in Australia last year celebrated 166,923 members with 311 affiliated clubs. These volunteers provided 1.4 million hours of service, rescued 11,533 people, and provided 64,645 first aid helps and 1300 helicopter rescue trips.
2007 was the Year of the Life Saver in Australia. Who has not seen those 'short clips' over decades at the movies - the life savers going about their work in their surf boats with huge waves crashing in and the like - it is a national past time to enjoy such cinematic 'shorts' - prior to the feature film.
There is not an Australia Day (26 January) or a Queens Birthday (2nd Monday in June) that the Surf Life Savers are not honoured in national awards, and volunteers them all. This is one of Australia's greatest iconic revelations to all who come to this country, everyone doing their bit for the community 'in some way'.
"Doing our bit" in Australia is a much loved passion and maintains many of Australia's best loved activities from surf life saving, SES, Bush Fire, sport, cultural pursuits, transport information and not least Christian mission.
Doing our bit is so much part of the nation's fabric that if you're above a certain age without employment and can demonstrate you're able to do-a-bit with a recognised organisation you will receive a Centrelink payment equivalent to someone seeking paid employment.
Overall, one in five Australians engages in this kind of volunteerism for an organisation or group. There is a vast, unpaid workforce in our society doing their bit in community organisations and in turn building community.
In my view the actual figures of people doing their bit is higher. There are a lot of young people who do their bit in personal and private ways, without necessarily joining an organisation. More importantly, what of those who do their bit in service through Christian churches and missions.
Christians not only have a proclivity to do their bit in service to their Lord and Saviour, they are enthusiastic about becoming personally involved.
These are a few examples of roles in the local church: gardening and lawns, cleaning up the surrounds and the church, the kitchen and toilets, run Play Groups, after school Kids' clubs, youth programs, mid-week home groups and bible studies, prayer meetings, the endless administration meetings, and so on and so forth.
Then there is another group of Christians doing their bit from local churches who play vital roles in the community; those who visit shut-ins, help the disabled with grocery shopping, run worship services in nursing homes and similar elderly constructs, visiting the sick (both short or long term illness) in their homes or hospitals, transport help to and from doctors or medical centres, visiting new mothers, casseroles or cakes to new street residents or parishioners, and many other unseen caring acts of support.
Missions and non-Government agencies
Missions and non-Government registered Church welfare arms also have armies of people doing-their-bit who provide a wide array of help from enveloping mail-outs, performing administration duties, answering telephone inquiries, providing encouragement and support, helping with outreaches, mentoring and transport. Overarching all this, there is the universal sacrificial financial giving within a Christian congregation.
In 1982 Dr David Milikan a Uniting Church minister who at one time headed up the ABC Religion Department, wrote the book, 'A Sunburnt Soul' and his statistic that has never been disputed, highlighted the Christian contribution to the Australian society, that of 82% of all welfare.
Former Federal Treasurer Peter Costello who has become an occasional columnist since leaving Federal politics made the point that the Commonwealth could not financially survive should the public purse have to pay every one of those 'one in five Australians' who do their bit, let alone those from local congregations listed above.
Great for stress
Doing your bit is also one of the 'satisfying' ingredients identified by John Mark Ministries' Reverend Dr Rowland Croucher, in areas such as 'ministry stress'. He counsels Christian leaders who are overwhelmed in their ministry, to do their bit outside their ministry as it is therapeutic.
Between the years 1982-2000 the Lord led me to establish the national Sports and Leisure Ministry which culminated with 250 people 'doing their bit', made up of 150 clergy serving part-time as sports chaplains to Australia's professional sports, along with 100 ministry helpers and Christian athletes engaged in mentoring.
It proved to be a tonic for each of them as they were able to minister alongside a broad range of people, each with their own experiences, needs and joys.
Now I have 75 young people writing a monthly column in Christian Today 'doing their bit' and a team of volunteers looking after the Laguna Quays Respite cottage for visiting missionaries.
As Christmas, followed by the New Year and the Australian summer comes upon us, thankyou nation for your volunteerism as your contribution to the well-being of Australia in whatever form that takes – Surf Life Saving or visiting a shut-in for a cuppa with a cracked cup. This is worth celebrating our Christian heritage and why we rejoice over the birth of the infant Jesus.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html