Service of Do We Use the Tools We Have?

June 6th, 2024

Categories: Opportunity, Religion, Tools

You might’ve heard this parable before, but it’s worth repeating. Ian Bassin retold it on Nicolle Wallace‘s show “Deadline: White House” on MSNBC the other day. Bassin is cofounder and executive director of Protect Democracy.

The parable starts: a minister is drowning and prays to God to save him.

A canoe comes by and the paddler invites him to jump in. The minister refuses and says “No thanks. God will save me.”

Next a motorboat stops to pick him up. He thanks the helmsman, passes on the ride and says, “God will save me.”

Finally, a helicopter buzzes overhead and drops a ladder. From a megaphone the pilot urges the minister to climb the ladder to safety. Again, he declines the offer and says, “God will save me.”

He drowns.

When he gets to heaven, he asks God why he didn’t save him and God says “I sent you a canoe, a motorboat and a helicopter and you turned down every offer. What more could I do?”

The point, said Bassin, we often have the tools to solve our issues and challenges, yet we don’t use them. It also has to do with stepping out of our comfort zones. [I’d be afraid of climbing that ladder to the helicopter but, as my mother used to say about other issues, “it’s better than the alternative.”]

Years ago before social media I had a friend who was an uber talented interior designer who asked me for suggestions for attracting new clients. She already belonged to the right organizations and designed rooms at decorator showhouses. I said she should show before and after photos of her work that addressed design challenges and present them—taking questions—to the groups of affluent people. She was attractive and articulate but refused to do any public speaking.

On the other hand, I shudder to think of opportunities I followed up on that I shouldn’t have. I took a new business meeting a few days after my husband died. I should have passed as goodness knows what version of Jeanne Byington showed up. It turned out to be a nonstarter as the business owner dragged me back for months, changing her goals each time. Eventually, after the umpteenth proposal, she sent me $500, thanked me for my time and said she wasn’t ready for PR.

What do you think of the parable? Have you missed opportunities or grabbed at inappropriate ones?

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5 Responses to “Service of Do We Use the Tools We Have?”

  1. Debbie Kunen Said:

    Debbie on Facebook: like it a lot.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:



  3. Lucrezia Said:

    It’s far easier to be pulled out of the water than to start a business and guide it to success. No question that most of us are gifted with tools, but little to nothing will work without the right ones.

    So, what do I think of the parable? You really want to know?

  4. Martha Takayama Said:

    Regrettably I can only confirm that I have acted like you in both types of situation. It is very uncomfortable to think about this subject!

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Nobody said it was easy to learn to use the tools that get you where you want to be.

    I see another angle to the parable which is blame. The fictitious minister blamed God. It’s so easy to point to someone or something else to explain why a plan fails or a goal isn’t met. It may be true, but it shouldn’t be the default answer.

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