No Shivering

“The fact is that in order to do any thing in this world worth doing, we must not stand shivering on the bank thinking of the cold and the danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.”  Sydney Smith

I was thinking about this quote today. The reason for that is one of my students spent her spring break preparing for her swimming test to become qualified to earn her Senior Life Saving Certification and become a lifeguard. She is fairly athletic, and my guess is that she did pass. She was nervous about it and we talked about her upcoming test. I told her to swim hard and be confident. I had quite an unusual experience when I took my Lifesaving class.

I took the class when I was about 14 or 15 as I recall. It was taught at out town pool, and we had class 6 mornings a week. We swam I don’t even know how many laps each morning. It was very hard work. I was a good swimmer. However, I lacked two things: stamina and the ability to do lengthy, uninterrupted underwater swimming. These were definite hindrances. During class we had to swim about 20 laps, then swim underwater to pick up a heavy brick and bring it to the side of the pool. When I took the class I was about 4′ 11″ tall and weighed about 70 pounds. For whatever reason, when I tried to swim to the bottom of the deep end after swimming all those lengths, my little body would pop right back up. It took a lot of work on my part to get to the bottom of the pool and stay there long enough to pick up a brick that was really heavy for me.

The coach would always have me rescue the hugest guy in the class. He didn’t do it to be mean. Rather, he did it to demonstrate that one could rescue any size person as long as you use the appropriate strategy. During the final week of the class we had a rehearsal for the real test. We were each partnered–one as the lifeguard the other as the victim. In the first round I was one of the guards. My counterpart (Tony) was the victim—and he was a HS football player. I was in the lane closest to the wall. My victim was out ahead of me, and I had just completed about 20 laps. Suddenly he went into the drowning act.

As I approached him, visible vapor came out of one of the pool vents and I breathed it in just as I turned my head mid-crawl to get more air. I instantly choked and inhaled water. I couldn’t breathe or move through the water. As I started to go under, Tony — in one deft move, scooped me up and hoisted me to the concrete beside the pool. “Coach!” he screamed as he got out. Suddenly, the coach was banging me on the back and clearing my air  passageway. I came to and saw there were other kids with their swim teachers that were having trouble.

In a blur, the pool director put me and 4 other kids in his station wagon and sped to the ER. It turned out, the pool pump system had malfunctioned ~ spewing chlorine gas right at the 5 of us. We got to the hospital and they examined us. The other kids were in worse shape than I was. They reached my folks (who were out of town; I was babysitting my brothers). Then they called my grandparents in the next town over. Anyway, the other kids were admitted to the hospital (after a day or two they were fine). The pool director took me back to the pool.

My swim coach was there waiting for me and so were my brothers. My brothers had been in the midst of their swim lessons when this happened. I told the swim coach I was going to get dressed. “Nope, come here,” he said. He took me to the side of the pool.  “Jump in and swim 2 laps for me” he said. “I’m too tired”. “No”, he said. “No shivering and no hesitating. If you do not get in and do this NOW, TODAY, you might never be able to make yourself swim again”. I froze. He picked me up and threw me in. Oh yeah, he sure did. I was mad!! But the coach said “swim 2 laps. Do not stop. Your brothers are watching and so am I. You can do this.” I was really, really mad at him. But I did it. I swam furiously. I thrashed and attacked that water. When I finished, I boosted myself out of the pool, grabbed a towel and stomped my foot. “Why did you do that? It could have happened again!” I yelled. “Better to go down fighting than to stand on the edge of the pool shivering for the rest of your life” he said. “Never forget that”. and I never did.

The very next day was my swim test. I was exhausted and my lungs were still pretty raspy. So I ran into some trouble with swimming my laps quickly enough, but I managed. I did my surface rescue okay. I was paired with Tony again. He pretended to struggle (he was supposed to struggle more, but he wouldn’t). I managed to even get him out of the pool. But then when I had to swim 2 more lengths and get the heavy brick from the bottom of the deep end, I just couldn’t. I got to the deep end, but no matter how hard I tried I could not get my body to stay down long enough to reach that brick. This too was a timed event. Time ran out. So I did not pass, I did not earn my Lifesaving Certificate. Everyone in the class passed but me. But the coach said to me,” you succeeded at something much more important; and that action will last your whole life”.

He was right, of course. And no, I didn’t take Lifesaving again. You see, I only took it because we always took swim lessons in the summer, and that was the last class. I had already passed all the others. I had zero interest in being a lifeguard ~ I would have enjoyed teaching swimming lessons. But having to sit in the chair and NOT swim and watch others swim ~~ let’s just say it would be hell for me! But God’s loving care for me has always meant this: when I need comfort and tender reassurance, He sends me someone that gives that to me. That is a good thing. On the other hand, when I am shivering, He always sends me someone to throw me in the pool….and that has also been a good thing. A very good thing. It has been one of my life’s greatest gifts.

About Kate Kresse

I love to write, I love to talk, I love to uplift people when I can. I am a woman in love with life. I am a wife, mom, tutor, writer, and I am a perennial optimist. (OK not every single minute but you get the point! :-)
This entry was posted in faith/courage/miracles/hope, Heartwarming or humorous stories and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to No Shivering

  1. mlissabeth says:

    I am inspired! The comment about God knowing who to send to us really sunk in. Thanks for thisawesome post.

  2. Maria Tatham says:

    Hey you, Kate! This was one of your best posts ever. I admire it a lot. What a necessary and lasting lesson!

  3. Kate Kresse says:

    Wow, Maria ~ thanks so very much. I hope it reaches each person that needs to hear those words today.

  4. Caddo Veil says:

    This one made me a bit weepy–I like the message that God sends who we need for every given challenge/circumstance. God bless you.

  5. Kate, this one is absolutely beautiful and oh so clarifying! Thank you.

  6. So glad you lived to tell this one! 😉

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Boy, I sure am too. The funniest thing was that at the hospital I had to gargle 7-UP. I had no idea at the time how to gargle. So I kept choking. That was freaking me out. The nurses finally taught me how to do it so I could stop choking!

      • 7-UP. Immediately after chlorine gas.
        Good grief. It’s a wonder you still have lungs. I am so sorry about all that. So sorry.
        But they say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Still glad and amazed that you somehow didn’t get killed.
        But 7-UP? That is totally difficult to believe. I guess they did not know better back in the “good ol’ days”?
        How grand, though, that the kid you were playing at “saving” actually saved your life. Amazing turn-around, there, and we’re all so glad, I’m sure, that someone was paying attention.
        You definitely had more innocence later that day than I would have. I would have swum three or more laps, maybe ten or twenty, no hesitation, instead of just the required two, climbed out of the pool without a word, and walked away. Also, during the final test, I would have kept after that brick without hesitation, until someone fetched me out of the water or until I got it, pretending I did not hear the “shiver” of the whistle on the “bank”.
        You’re such a kind one, from way back.

        • Kate Kresse says:

          To this day I didn’t know the 7Up gig was a danger after the chlorine gas. I guess it is a good thing that I was completely incapable of gargling it! Yeh~ Tony saved me that day. It scared the heck out of him. Big hulking football player nearly in tears. As far as sticking with it and fetching the brick ~~ I don’t think I was one bit determined to pass…. I had never once been able to get to the bottom of the pool and get it. Not from a swimming position ~ only if I jumped in from the side or the diving board. I think that part of the pool must have been I don’t know 10 feet deep or more?? Could NOT get down to the bottom…each time I either ran out of air or oomph [and that was before the chlorine incident, even!}

  7. Gilly Gee says:

    Thanks Kate what an inspiring life story, we all need some tenacity like yours.

  8. Tilly Bud says:

    What a wonderful story and quote. Inspiring.

  9. Terri O.A. says:

    Been shivering a bit lately Kate, thanks!

    • Kate Kresse says:

      Awww~sorry to hear that….Go ahead and leap in; the water is only cold for a bit. Besides that, there is always someone standing by to cheer you on and rescue you if that is necessary.

  10. Cee Neuner says:

    Awesome, scary and definitely life altering. Wonderful story!

  11. Judy says:

    Love your story, Kate. Your coach’s words are definitely “keepers”, as you have found out.
    Swimming has always been a big part of my life, too. I only went as far as Jr Lifesaving, but watched the older kids doing the Sr Lifesaving, and I didn’t have the “guts” to tackle it like you.
    Instead I was able to get a swim teaching job when I was 13 and continued in my competitive swimming. But I’ve always felt bad I didn’t get the Sr. Lifesaving. I know that’s a very grueling course! Kudos to you for sticking it out. Proud of you, girl!

    • Kate Kresse says:

      It was really, really hard. I can’t believe how hard it is to swim those lengthy distances. I cannot even imagine taking the class in an ocean or river setting. Whew. I would have been smarter to take Jr. Lifesaving 1st. I needed more conditioning. thanks, though!

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