Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Are Credit Unions Missing the Boat?

Recently, I took a tour of the San Diego Maritime Museum and while I walked the decks of a frigate and schooner and crawled through the belly of a Soviet era Foxtrot-class attack submarine, I found myself imagining what it must have been like to those who actually sailed the high seas in these astonishing vessels.

First of all, there’s not a lot of room for comfort. Unless you were the captain or high ranking officer, you practically lived the entire day rubbing elbows with all those around you. Second, when you put out to sea, you were confined to that vessel for months. And third, I could only imagine how these conditions bonded everyone on board, giving them plenty of reasons to get to know one another, to communicate with each other (remember, there was no TV or Internet connectivity) and most especially, to depend on one another to safely and successfully reach the port of their destination. I took some photos aboard the Star of India, the HMS Surprise and the Foxtrot B-39, and you can see them all at Shutterfly.

Today, however, such voyages have taken to the open sky and the comfort of airships flying at 550 mph and offering frills like reclining seats, XM Satellite Radio and Direct TV. Albeit, passengers are still crammed into a very confining space, but the tendency to bond with others making the journey has given way for the most part to where we now exchange only a brief glance and possibly only a few words, like, “Excuse me, but that’s my seat.”

It’s no wonder then, that when we hear someone say, “We’re all in the same boat,” we have difficulty truly appreciating all that it might imply.

Yet, wouldn’t you agree that all of us associated with credit unions are in fact, all in the same boat, together?

At this precise moment in time and history, you and I and thousands of others find ourselves bound together by a set of cooperative principles and values, whether we are cognizant of it or not. We celebrate our triumphs each year in the ritualistic ways we do, dinners and conferences, and we acclaim those whose inspiration and contributions have guided us so well. We face the same challenges and obstacles; attacks from the banking lobby, regulatory requirements and a stubbornly sluggish economy. And, in times of adversity, we turn to one another to tap our own wellspring of generosity, talents and skills. When we bond with one another and work together cooperatively in these many ways, isn’t it true that we gain an inner strength, just like those aboard the sailing vessels of old? And, in doing so, isn't it true that somehow we find ourselves having the profound ability to navigate our way to success?

As a movement, it’s clear that we depend on each other in so many ways for survival. Yet, there are many times where we continue to find reason to erect walls that separate and divide; to point fingers in frustration; to compete with the wrong competitors—each other; and, to fuel egos that in many cases masquerade a humble and gentle spirit that is in most need of expression today.

As I walked those decks, I wondered if credit unions are missing the boat. 

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