By Kathy Fawcett
Have you ever had to dive into a pitch-black lake at midnight to possibly locate a missing child on the murky lake floor? My daughter has. She tells me that the adrenaline rush that her body gets when called out of a deep sleep to do this job is staggering, but that all her training kicks in to autopilot.
That’s why my feathers get ruffled when someone makes the comment about how cool it would be to lifeguard in the summer, "just hanging around on the beach, getting a tan."
When Holly decided to become a lifeguard four years ago to boost her summer job options, she was barely 16 and a recreational swimmer at most. After signing up for the Red Cross certification course, Holly spent every day at her high school’s swimming pool, building the endurance it would take just to get her wet foot in the door. To even be considered for the 45 hours of training, Holly had to qualify by swimming the 500 (20 lengths of a regulation pool) plus rescue a bowling ball from the depths. Out of the initial 10 kids trying to make the cut, the first week knocked out half of them, all swim team kids except Holly and her brother Alex, who was also training. These two recreational swimmers just have determination to succeed.
For the past three summers, Holly has been a lifeguard at a summer camp in Michigan.
Now let me tell you, guarding kids in a lake is a lot different from the crystal clear waters of a chlorine pool. Every dock, floating island or reed patch represents a blind spot to the lifeguards. Rain and clouds don’t stop sweaty campers from wanting to swim, they just cloud up the water, making lifeguarding more challenging.
During the day, Holly stands fully engaged in the water or at the edge of the water, continually discerning between the splashing of kids having fun – and the splashing of kids who are in over their heads. During the past few summers she has pulled out more than one child who swam deeper than allowed (following friends, no doubt) and who couldn’t keep their heads above water. Holly often ends her day with sunburn, headaches and stomach aches from the stress of her responsibility, only to shower and head off to the cabins to counsel and play flashlight tag before falling into a dead sleep that she could be woken up from if camper head counts don’t add up.
Today she called to say that the YMCA in Grand Rapids, Michigan, hired her after she, again, proved her abilities and life saving skills for nearly three hours. During a staged "rescue", a strap was caught under the backboard, and of the group, only Holly had the experience to handle the situation.
I don’t know about you, but when my life is in danger, I want to trust someone who’s more than just average. I want the lifeguard who embodies the DIFF. Don’t you?