On Tuesday, May 23 at 11:30 a.m. in the BYU-Idaho Center, Eric Embree, a communication professor, delivered his devotional talk which he focused on being emotional lifeguards to those who may be struggling. 

He began his talk by sharing a story in which a lifeguard saved a 9-year-old girl from drowning at a beach. The parents, oblivious to their daughter, were only 10 feet away from her while the lifeguard was 50 feet away. He mentioned that drowning doesn’t look like drowning in most cases, but the lifeguard had been trained for these situations and was able to recognize the danger. He related this to BYU-Idaho students in the sense that anyone can be a lifeguard to others if they look for signs. 

“The good news is that all of us can be — and indeed are called to be — lifeguards,” Embree said. “The captain in the story was able to rescue the little girl because he was alert, he knew what to watch for and he knew how to respond. We can do the same. Each of us have the ability to watch for signs of drowning and lift those who are struggling to safety.”

He continued his talk by referring to a previous devotional talk from Greg Klingler, BYU-I’s general education director. Embree quoted his talk when Klingler mentioned that each individual is the body of Christ in the sense that everybody suffers when one suffers. Embree went on to explain that responding to the pain of others is not sufficient. According to him, empathy means feeling the pain of others, and it can be key in emotional lifeguarding. 

“As followers of Christ, we are called to seek out those who may be in distress, not simply respond when we hear dramatic splashing and a call for help,” Embree said. “Practicing this ‘proactive empathy’ requires a willingness to look for pain that might not be readily visible.”

He followed this by mentioning the question he asked in the devotional discussion board and brought up several things that everyday students can do to empathize and to practice being lifeguards:

— Watch for signs.

— Listen.

— Acknowledge others’ signs of stress and pain.

— Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

— Listen to the Spirit.

— Never, ever ignore a prompting.

Embree emphasized this last point as the most important item on the list.

In closing, Embree reached out to individuals who are currently struggling, letting them know that they are loved and seen. He implored students to do their best to be lifeguards to others as, according to him, it’s something everyone can do. He ended his talk by emphasizing once more that drowning doesn’t look like drowning, but being a lifeguard can make it easier to discern that. 

“Each bright, happy face may hide a person who is fighting desperately to stay afloat,” Embree said. “Drowning doesn’t always look like drowning. As would-be lifeguards, we must make sure a lifeline is close at hand, keep our eyes on the water and stay alert.”