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  • I wasn't so sure I wanted to go to summer camp but my parents thought it would be good for me, I guess, as I usually had my head stuck in a book rather than going out to play with the neighborhood kids. At camp we stayed in hogans in the woods and made treks up and down a steep mountain path to go to the mess hall. We had arts and crafts, hiked and played games. I was shy but I made some friends not to mention a few avant garde pieces of art with Popsicle sticks and Elmer's glue. I was getting the hang of things and it wasn't, as I recall, as awful as I had anticipated.

    But I hated going to the swimming hole for two reasons. One, I was chubby, and I felt self-conscious in my swimsuit. Two, I had never learned to swim. We had no public pool in the small town in Pennsylvania where I was born. I never had lessons or any chance to go swimming.

    But we had to participate in all the activities of the group and the swimming hole trip was one of them so off I went in my little ruffled bathing suit. It wasn't so bad at first. I walked around in the water, played a beach ball game with some of my friends and I even got used to being splashed in the face. I was feeling quite brave and getting used to being in the water. That's when it happened. Walking around in the water I suddenly stepped down to find nothing beneath my feet. I struggled to get back but couldn't. I was so embarrassed! All my new friends would now see I couldn't swim!

    I floundered and my arms were flailing but I didn't yell, not wanting to call attention to my humiliating situation. There were kids playing all around me but no one noticed. I was probably going down for the third time when the lifeguard spotted me and dove in to haul my chubby little butt back to the shore. All I can remember was the agony of the embarrassment. I'm sure I never thanked the lifeguard or even stopped to consider that he had just saved my life, immersed as I was in my own little drama of humiliation.

    But sometimes life gives us another chance and we are able to square things up a bit. So, when I read your story this morning, Ray, I knew what I had to do.

    I am so sorry, Mr. Lifeguard, for not thanking you or being grateful that you saved my life. I know it's not you, sir, but one of your lifeguard brothers I am apologizing to but I hope where ever you are you can get the message from Ray. I'm sorry.

    Are we good now?

    This story written in response to Cowbird author Ray Neighbor's story about saving a couple of swimmers when he worked as a lifeguard and how they did not offer him any thanks and in fact were quite perturbed.
    (photo credit: Paul Schultz flickr commons)
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