The Unexpected Dazzling Swim Class

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Everyone moved side to side, warming up as dancers before a ballet or jazz class. A few stretched, but mainly tried not to splash their neighbor too much. The music started and was festive with accents from the 1980s. It lifted us all with a can-do attitude. But then they added weights… We all groaned and continued, and laughed. All except a very tall senior person, who I call the General, who was at the back of the class looking serious and sedate.

It was my second week back at water aerobics here in the Bay Area and I watched as women and men of all ages and backgrounds pursued a similar goal—get stronger, think brighter, become…. The water has been my friend since I was a girl doing swim team. I absolutely love doing a heavy aerobics workout in the water since it eases some aches from a bad fall years ago. I never expected to have a deep moment right then.

I was kicking and I peeked at the General near the back of the very crowded class. He’s nearing his 90s, and was busy using foam weights. He struck me as a possible former head of industry or something where he supervised the fate of many. But here he was, the General faithfully pursuing health, at his own speed.

The teacher, who has children the same age as mine, has very curly hair which gets only more jazzed up as she dances to the music, relating fun anecdotes from non-political news stories, or her kids’ lives, or something encouraging to keep us all going. The ladies next to me began talking, one of whom has her locks wrapped in a discreet water scarf, with the dark fabric artfully tucked in a turban style. Another other who always wears green swim suits and runs fast against the waves, started to whisper how inspiring our instructor is. I nodded in agreement. Sometimes the teacher comes with her wavy dark hair in a bun, but she has so much fun dancing on the side of the pool, going to each end making sure every person feels included and is moving correctly, by the end of the class some rebellious hairs have escaped and her face is shiny with effort. Her grin is wide with genuine joy.

I’ve always admired her, but something special happened this week with the tall gentleman at the back. No one else may have seen it, but I did, and time slowed for a bit. I felt like a hand from above was saying, “See, something little can make a difference in a life.” While he wasn’t looking, she dashed behind the General and, well, splashed him. Just a little dribble. He blushed and broke out into a huge smile. I could suddenly imagine him as a child being picked as “it” in a game and chasing us all. He kicked a bit higher, worked a bit stronger. His silver hair, dry due to his height above the churning waters, shifted side to side again.

Later, as he left before the rest of the class, she told us all what move to do next and then waved at him. I looked back, and he blew her a kiss. I about melted. Right there. This one lady had managed to motivate various age groups, and many ethnic varieties of people, with her winning attitude. Her positivity had universal appeal. She almost poured, “You can do it” magic juice all over the side of the pool. Her warmth wrapped us all up and left us giggling. But then she ran all the way around the pool, over to the General, gave him a gentle hug, and said, “Well done.”

I’ve never been so inspired by such simple kindness and joy. It was spilling over us all. It dazzled the General and me, too. When was the last time I trickled joy over my family, the line at the grocery, or at church? Sometimes I’m too worried my hair is right rather than seeking every opportunity to encourage others and believe in their dreams. To boost them all. To look past age and background to the heart. To encourage them to become.

This came after reading the most incredible book written by Chip Gaines.

I’m about to give it to my whole family since it was so inspiring. He’s a character, too. He loves fun and makes it the first on the list no matter how hard or grueling or even gross the work is in renovating homes.

Favorite quotes:

About failure: “We spend our time focusing on what might go wrong…” he really helped articulate how to remain open to possibility and free from fear and how, “Swaddling ourselves up in our security blankets completely restricts our ability to take courageously bold steps.”

About possessions: I love how he describes his wife, Joanna, becoming “an expert at finding unique ways to fill homes with meaning instead of just stuff.” After losing every possession in a wildfire years ago, we’re trying to continue to cull what we own or replace things with meaningful items that lift our spirits or are useful, and get rid of excess. It’s a process I have to begin again each time we move, and will be a big focus this year.

About belief and surrounding yourself with can-do people: “When something seems insurmountable to most, we shrug, because we eat ‘insurmountable’ for lunch.” Oh how I loved this thought. What you focus on you give power to. Can’t recommend it enough. Plus I love the references to Waco since I went to #Baylor university too.

Chip loves to make dreams come true for others, too. On a bigger, more public scale, of course, but I’d match my teacher’s enthusiasm for his any day. They’re both seriously gifted and love to squash down fear with their words and attitude and lift up others to see what’s possible in life. To be fearless. I want to grow up to be like both of them. I want to face into challenges and opportunities looking at the glass as half full. Will you join me?

Have you ever met someone whose enthusiasm broke into your life and pushed you to do more, to love others better?

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