Nothing inside of me wanted to do it. Nothing. The only reason I discreetly slipped into my bathing suit was so I could later ease into the water and eventually brag, “I swam in a volcano crater lake.” (Good plan.)
And then Tom happened.
But first the back story! During 2015 my husband and I have been coaching the World Race Fusion Squad. This is a squad of 23 Racers who embarked on an 11 month/11 country mission trip back in January. Every few months we jet to wherever the heck they are for their debrief.
A debrief is where we spend 4-5 days simply encouraging each of the Racers via hanging out, drinking coffee, hugging, laughing, listening, crying, talking–you get the idea. It’s a great job.
At the end of August we flew to Nicaragua. This time, though, we went early to help the Racers host a five-day visit from their parents (the Parent Vision Trip). Now their parents hadn’t seen their Racers for eight months, so we were really inconsequential for those few days. All we did was tag along for the scheduled activities and chatted it up with parents.
On the day before the parents departure, we went to the Laguna De Apoyo, a deep crater lake–or, rather, an imploded volcano that filled with water! It really is pretty amazing.
Now on this particular day several of us were seated at a laguna-side table with a fantastic view. One of the racers, Kylene, slid next to me and whispered, “I am panicking.”
“Why?” I asked.
She quickly responded: “My dad wants to jump in the lagoon.”
I quickly responded with glee: “I think that’s great!!”
“NO! It’s not!!” she responded, not very gleefully.
“Why not?” She rolled her eyes at what seemed to be a ludicrous question. You see, her dad is Tom. Tom is legally blind. So she gave the obvious answer: “He might get hurt.”
I hesitated and then said, “Yes, he might. But he wants to do it.” I turned to my seated comrades, “Hey ya’ll, Tom wants to jump in the water. Let’s vote! If you think he should, raise your hand.” (All hands went up.) “Then it’s decided. Tom goes in.”
One of my lunch companions, Daniel, offered to jump in first to determine how far out he needed to jump. Another one, Nathan, who happened to be a lifeguard in a former life,
offered to jump in with him.
I turned back to Kylene, Tom’s daughter and smiled, “then it’s all settled! Your dad’s going swimming!”
That news was not settling at all to her.
There were two platforms to jump from. The tallest about 20 feet off the water, the other about 14 feet. Tom opted for the latter. Daniel did the test ‘run and jump’ and then, with minor instructions, Tom and Nathan began to run. The leap was picture perfect, the cheers were boisterous, and Tom’s grin was indescribable.
Kylene’s fears for her dad were valid. She had seen her dad fall several times. The former bank president began going blind only a few years prior and hated his red-tipped walking stick. Therefore, he had walked full-face into more than one immovable structure and had been told by more than one stranger that he had blood on his forehead or running down his cheek. She had not wanted it to happen one more time. But today she was relieved. And proud–very proud.
And, unbeknownst to Tom, he was causing a ripple effect--no pun intended! First it was Joann. Joann was fidgeting after Tom jumped in and then suddenly blurted out: “If he can do it, then I have no excuse!” With that, she ripped off her hearing aid, grabbed her daughter’s hand and took off running! More cheering!
Then came a knowing glance as another couple, Rick and Carmen, stood up from their lounge chairs, took a deep breath and a few strides and then leapt.
Then, the first Racer called to me, “Hey, Mama K! When are you jumping in??”
I called back, “Uh, well, uh. I’m not a good swimmer. I mean, I can hold my own, it’s just that I don’t like people to touch me in the water and I really don’t like drop offs and I have to hold my nose and…..”
I continued to ramble as the Racers ignored my weak reasoning.
Okay, the truth was that I was scared. No really, I was scared. I wasn’t scared of getting hurt necessarily. I was scared of slipping before I even leapt and looking stupider than I felt. And I was scared of looking dorky while I held my nose. And I was scared of–well dang, nothing big.
And then there was Tom. Ugh.
I agreed to the lower 14′ platform that was increasing in elevation with every passing second. My sweet husband agreed to jump with me (but not to touch me in the water).
I stood ready to run, but I was frozen. (Tom wasn’t frozen.) My husband said, “don’t think about it, JUST GO!”
I did. I took the first step and the rest was easy. Admittedly, it was actually fun.
Fear has made me miss too much. But something in me shifted that day.
Thank you Tom, for helping me to see that I have unwittingly invented my own “red-tip stick” which I have been using as an excuse for resisting many adventures. Thank you for helping me see.
Really, thank you.