“Those who can, do.
Those who can’t should do it anyway.”
Now that summer’s right around the corner and Speedo-worthiness weather is soon upon us, one of the smartest things you can do besides knocking off some of that excess weight you’ve been lugging around for a while is to make sure your kid, kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, neighbors and you know how to swim as soon as they are able to walk, if not sooner.
I was fortunate to be born in Coral Gables, the Florida coastal community just below South Beach, and lived with my grandparents who had an in-ground pool in their yard. I have a picture of me taken when I was about 9 months old splashing around in the water near the pool’s edge totally unsupported – as in no floaties, no inner-tube, no styro noodle and no mom holding me up. I’m sure she was mere inches from the picture’s edge, but the point is, my mom and Grandparents made sure that with all the water surrounding us, I was totally comfortable in it and could float and swim before I could barely walk. Consequently, I’ve been like a Mermaid – more comfortable in water than on land, ever since.
As the years go by, it amazes me how many people I meet – adults, youngsters and everyone in between, who cannot swim – and worst of all – some are deathly afraid of the water to the point of petrification. This is not a good thing. The water truly is your friend and there’s nothing, nothing, nothing to be afraid of. You just have to know how to handle yourself in and around her.
I always try to help these aqua-phobes become a bit more comfortable with our liquid environment when we’re in any water, boating or swimming situation. It’s far more dangerous being that terrified of the water than learning to respect it and your own limits within it.
Not too long ago, I had the pleasant experience of talking to a popular, African American Reverend when he and I were standing in line next to each other in our health club’s grille.
He had just been in the news days before at an opening of some Westside kids club and he, along with another official, took an inaugural plunge into the brand spanking new pool – in the deep end, of course.
It was instantly apparent to me that none of the other officials standing on the sidelines realized the Rev didn’t know how to swim, because by the time anyone else noticed, he struggled his way to the pool’s edge, thrashing and clutching at the water with his fingers spread wide open.
I instantly spotted his uncomfortable-ness with the situation and his inability to even tread water. The more frantically he paddled, the slower he sank. Miraculously, before drowning, he made it to the safety of the pool’s rim and weakly smiled, keeping a stiff upper lip.
The former YMCA life guard and Junior Leader in me demurely drew the episode to the Rev’s attention pointing out what he should do if he ever found himself shipwrecked or in a similar situation again – so he could at least stay afloat long enough for help to arrive without panicking or wearing himself out with fear, anxiety and worse.
What was my advice to him?
“Cup your hands and fingers together like little paddles,” I demonstrated. “Then trace a slow, wide figure-eight pattern with your cupped hands just below the surface of the water, almost right in front of you, but down around your waist, like, at eleven and two o’clock.”
Meanwhile, you should also peddal your legs in a gentle bicycle motion to keep your head and shoulders above the water. By concentrating on the movement of your hands and feet and counting slowly from one to four, over and over again, it will help you to relax and take your
mind off the sheer terror of your situation. Pretty soon, each component will coordinate with the other and hopefully by then, someone will see you and come to your rescue.
When I teased the Rev that he looked like he was going down for the count as he jerkily tried to make it to the pool’s edge, he laughed and said, “You know, I ain’t built for no swimmin’, darlin’.”
“You may be right,” I said, “but just in case you ever find yourself in another over-your-head situation, I sure hope my swimming words of wisdom snap back to you. At least you won’t look like you’re drowning.
And just because you’re a man of God, don’t wait for Him to sail down from the Heavens to save you. With all due respect, Rev, you’ll be waiting a long, long time.”
Those who can – do.
Those who cannot swim – should learn to do so anyway.