Friday, October 11, 2013

Ask Lots of Questions

Ask Lots of Questions
BA @ Kids Matter
During high school and college I worked every summer as a camp counselor at “Camp Little Acorn,” our local YMCA day camp.  It was a wonderful experience for me. For eight weeks in the summer it was attended by lots of children. Each day after the flag raising ceremony, the children had a schedule of fishing, hiking, archery, riflery, camp crafts, nature studies, boating, and a flag lowering ceremony.  Each day the children were transported, by bus, to the YMCA pool for a swim before going home.
On the first day of one particular camping session I gathered all of the children in my group around me to sit and get acquainted. One very important thing for a counselor to find out was if a child could swim. Any child that could not swim was required to remain in the shallow end of the pool with a counselor. All of the children in my group could swim except one little boy. So I made a note to myself to keep him in my mind. 
Our camp was bounded by Houston Creek on two sides. Although in most places, you had to wade, some places were actually deep enough to float a boat. And, of course, the children also went to the pool every day. At that time, the pool was a small (and I mean small) indoor pool located in the basement of the YMCA.  The pool was from 3 ft. to 8 ft. deep and was about the size of an in-ground backyard pool. Slippery concrete floors surrounded it with a few windows strategically placed for ventilation. 
Each counselor had been given trained on first aid, CPR, water safety, and boating safety… we were also given a limited amount of training on lifeguarding. There was always a trained lifeguard on staff. Camp counselors took turns on “pool duty” which involved standing in street clothes, around the side of the pool and watching the children. Sounds easy, but it was a small pool and there were lots of kids! When they got in the water it was a noisy, crowded and busy place for sure! The lifeguard needed all the help he could get.
Well, on the first day of this particular session I was put on “pool duty”. No big deal, I had done it many times. I always kept my eyes and ears open because I took my job as a counselor quite seriously. I had been assigned to the deep end of the pool by the diving board. 
Each child waited patiently in line for their turn on the board.  When you got on the board you were to wait until the previous child had made it to the ladder before you could dive or jump off the board. We had been trained to watch as they went off the board and safely made it to the ladder and then watch the next child. That day was no different than any other as swimmer after swimmer went off the board… over and over again.  And then it happened!!!
I looked over and there he was… the little boy who could not swim!! It took only about 30 seconds but seemed like it was an eternity and all in slow motion. He was smiling, running, and jumping off the diving board. My mind was telling me, you know he cannot swim!
This little boy, without a care in the world, plunged into the eight feet of water and promptly sank straight to the bottom. I kid you not; he was on the bottom of the pool looking straight up at me with his big eyes and totally in shock. I can still see him to this day. I prayed he did not try to take a breath down there! Without thinking I, along with the lifeguard, immediately jumped in after him.  We pulled him to the side and up the ladder.  He was spitting water, coughing, snot was flying, but he was fine.  I took him to the locker room, dried him off, and he got dressed.  We spent the rest of the day in the gymnasium.
As we sat on the bleachers in the gym, me with wet hair, wet shoes, wet clothes, and still a bit shaken, I asked him what he was thinking when he got on that board and jumped off.  “You told me this morning that you can’t swim.” I reminded him. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I can’t swim, but I know how to jump off stuff! I jump off my bed all the time!” 
Well, I learned my lesson that day. Be sure to ask all of the right questions… even if you are not sure what they may be! Too much information is better than not enough. Just think like a little boy and it might just save someone’s life! Or, at least, keep you from getting soaking wet!  
Kids……you gotta love ‘em!

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