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'But we never did it like that before'

Published October 05. 2013 09:00AM

Our kayak club meets each Wednesday for a business meeting and dinner, and each Sunday morning for a club paddle.

I've been a member for about five years and I never "make waves."

But what's wrong with offering a suggestion?

Well, that could be construed as "making waves" if the suggestion (gasp!) is to do things differently.

My question for the club was this: Why can't we hold the club paddles on Saturday instead of Sunday? Or, any day of the week other than Sunday.

My church has Mass Saturday and Sunday evenings so I can still get there. But for others, they either have to miss church or miss the paddle.

I don't see why they have to make a choice. The way I see it, we don't HAVE to paddle on Sundays.

When I brought it up to the club, I was told there is a compelling reason for keeping the trips on Sundays.

This, I was told, is the compelling reason: "We always did it this way."

"From the time the club started, we always had trips on a Sunday," said one longtime member. "It's tradition!" she said in the tone of voice that meant "don't mess with tradition."

"Not many people go to church," said another member in insisting there was "no reason" to change something that's been the same for decades.

I reminded them Sunday is also the busiest day on our waterways and we all try to avoid heavy boat traffic. There are many nifty places we can't kayak because the boat traffic is too much. And there are boat ramps we can't use because of the same reason: Too many big boats pulling in and out on the ramp and too many boaters taking up all the parking places. By 9 in the morning, the place is filled.

To me, it only makes sense to move our paddles to Saturday.

Ohhhhh, mutiny! Ohhhh blasphemy! Who would suggest something as dumb as changing tradition? Where are the stones we can throw at her?

I didn't even have the support of the club president. And the ironic thing is, he's my husband.

"You have to understand," he said on the way home. "We've ALWAYS had our paddles on a Sunday. The club gets upset if we change things. People don't like change."

Well, that's a given.

Our local Episcopal Church has been lucky enough to have two outstanding pastors over the past decade or two. Father Lee was a beloved, brilliant theologian who could make a gospel message reach the hearts of all. Father Eric, his predecessor was a young energetic guy who was also popular with the congregation.

Now, the church has a new pastor. I've never met him but from reading his church bulletin, I know he has a sense of humor.

I also think he must have people reacting negatively to change.

This is what he wrote in a recent bulletin: "There is something so terrifying in our tradition that all we can do is joke about it. So here goes with a classic: How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb? The answers:

·"Change? (GASP!"

·"Why my grandmother gave the church that light bulb."

·"Three. One to change it and two to storm out in protest."

·"Four. One to call the electrician, one to clear it with the vestry, and two to argue about how much better candles were."

·"Five. One to screw in the new bulb and four to form an organization for the preservation of the old bulb."

·"Well, first you have to form a committee."

·"Ten. One to actually change the bulb and nine to say how much they liked the old one."

·"None. The old one is complete and sufficient unto itself and should not be changed according to whims."

I won't meet Father Jim until later this week but I like him already. He brought humor to our age-old aversion to change.

It doesn't matter if we're talking about change in a church, a club, or a routine. People resist change.

Here are two more examples from real life.

A woman who lost her husband was feeling lonely. She was told to volunteer at her church as a way to make friends while she did something worthwhile. So she mustered her courage and went to volunteer when the church ladies were cooking for a parish dinner.

The leader told her to grab a potato peeler and help peel. She timidly smiled at people as she started to peel, hoping she would make friends.

Instead, she was startled when another woman accosted her. "Who do you think you are?" demanded the woman. "You're standing in MY spot doing MY job. Everyone knows I peel the potatoes and I always stand there."

I guess I don't have to tell you the mortified woman left and never went back.

I belong to a wonderful shell club that gets better every year. New members have appeared with fresh ideas that have resulted in more fun activities for all of us.

Yet, some older members quit because "they're changing things."

Why does change make us cringe? Why do we resist it and think we're being cheated if our routine gets changed?

And why do we meet proposed change with the protest, "But we've never done it like that before?"

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