Archive for July, 2009


When Will I Ever Need to Know This?

July 19, 2009

In high school, I didn’t work in a clothing store or ice cream shop like so many of my peers.  Instead, I got a job at my local YMCA, being attacked daily by wet, screaming howler monkeys.  Some refer to this as “swimming lessons.”  Let me tell you, calling it swimming is a stretch for some of those kids, but okay.  I did it for two years of high school, as well as one summer after freshman year of college.  It was a natural choice since I did water polo and swim team, I was already in the pool most of the day, and I had the skills to teach.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love kids, I really do, I plan on having a whole brood of kids.  But landsakes, did this job test my patience.  From the terrified-and-shrill screamers who would take off strips of flesh if you tried to get them anywhere near the water, to the “I couldn’t hold it any longer” kids who ruin pool day for everyone, it made for some trying times.  The worst type, however, were the overly brave types, who, despite being told eighteen times that unless you’re with teacher you stay on the stairs/platform/wall, would wait for you to turn your back with another student, then immediately charge into the water with abandon, laughing until their face sank below the water.  You then had to tuck the kid you were currently with under your arm like a football and charge back across the pool to the tiny tot who was looking up from under the surface, eyes full of panic.  Then, after you pulled them up from the depths and dragged them back to safety, explaining, yet again, that this is why you wait for teacher, they would do it again! Good grief.  Those delightful miniature people, combined with countless meetings and trainings, may have made me slightly bitter.  After that last summer of work, I left gleefully thinking “See ya, suckers!  I will never do that again!”

Au contraire.

In my junior year of college I went abroad to Thailand.  The last month of the semester was spent in a village in the foothills of the Himalayas, where we lived with them and learned about that tribe’s particular culture.  Though it was larger as far as villages in the area go, it was remote.  Bathing involved either hauling a trashcan full of water up to the bathroom (and using it sparingly), or going to the river.


Isn’t it funny how your standards change depending on how you live?  Here I’ll take all this time to primp and put on makeup and cute clothes and still don’t always like how I look, but there, when we returned to the city after the village, I took an actual shower, put on a clean shirt and a coat of mascara and thought “Damn. I look good.”

*End sidenote

The children from the village usually went with us to the river to swim around and bathe.  One day a truck was heading to the river, and I opted not to go, having showered within the last three days.  It sticks in my memory very clearly, the decision not to go, because of what happened afterward.  A girl from a neighboring village had gone to the river with her father shortly before our group.  He got out of the water before she did, and I think he may have laid down to take a nap.  Maybe he only turned aside for a second.  But when he looked back at the water, she was gone.  When our group got there, people were already searching, and our students joined in the efforts, being stronger swimmers than most of the locals.  After a while she was found on the bottom of the river.  I’m told the sound of the father’s cry when they pulled her out was nightmarish.  Every person who went to the river that day came back with a haunted look in their eyes.

We didn’t go to the river for several days after that.  When it was finally decided that we could go again, none of the children wanted to come.  After some convincing they agreed to go later that afternoon.  At some point during the day, the assistant for our group came up to me and said that he had heard that I taught swimming lessons, and he thought it would be good for me to teach the local kids.  The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind, but I readily agreed.  When we got to the river the older girls wouldn’t get in, but two little twins, as fearless as any YMCA-er, jumped on in.  Using my broken Thai and a lot of ridiculous arm motions, I taught them as best as I could.  Eventually the older girls got in as well, and I worked with them, mainly to teach them not to be afraid, because panic is the thing that gets you in trouble.  I got them to put their heads in the water and paddle back and forth, enough that they could hopefully get themselves safely to shore if they drifted out too deep.

The YMCA was just a way to make spending money to me.  I never thought of it as a useful skill, or something that could actually potentially save people.  But I can’t shake the feeling that God knew.  God weaves together the parts of our lives in ways we can’t fathom.  Years from now, who knows what God will be doing in your life, what random experiences he will use for his purpose?  It’s taught me (I hope) to not disvalue anything, or take it at face value.  Some of the things I’ve done or read in the past four years of college have seemed, well, useless. And while I have come to appreciate the value of education for education’s sake, I’ve definitely been guilty of thinking “When will I ever need to know this?”  There are things that I just love to learn about.  But the others, that I don’t love so much… I trust that there is a reason, for the tedious, the mundane, the boring.  Maybe I will find out that reason in the future, maybe I won’t.  But God knows, and I think we just have to have faith that he will put it to use in his time.



July 18, 2009

I’ve noticed that everytime someone starts a blog, their first post explains why they are starting the blog, usually in a self-deprecating “I know this is silly but I’m giving in anyway” sort of fashion.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking this, it’s what this post is going to turn into.

I’ve lurked around the edge of blog land for several months, reading blogs written by friends (mainly Barrett, Peter and Mike, also a bit of Diana Small, but that one’s creepier since I don’t really know her that well… I’ll just hope she’s not reading this). In any case, I’ve really enjoyed what they have to say, on such a wide variety of topics that would probably never come up in day-to-day conversation.  I think the reason for the humble first blog post is that we all want to think we have something of value to say, just like others we have read, but we’re afraid that when it comes down do it, we don’t.  At least that’s how I feel.  But I trust my friends are kind enough to humor me, even if I don’t.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that I will lose interest in this in a month and it won’t really matter.  But for now, it’s a bit of self-indulgent fun.  Like ice cream for breakfast (like how I worked that in?  See, I am clever).