I took my kids swimming the other night. My Scout had some swimming tests to take (he aced them) and my other kids and I went along to burn some energy and have some fun.
While we were there, it was extremely crowded so I didn't have much chance for any meaningful swimming, alas. When things started to thin out a little, I struck out across the little kids' warm pool (it does have a semi-deep end where you can actually swim a bit) and just stretched my legs a bit.
On the way back from one of those "laps," I saw the life-guard, definitely a plus-sized girl, looking intently at a kid in the water just ahead. I looked closer, but wasn't sure what I was seeing. No one was underwater and drowning, but it looked to me like there was a kid there having trouble staying afloat in water too deep for him to touch bottom. He was trying to tread water but was working awfully hard and looking very stressed.
I was debating whether to grab him, just in case he was in trouble, but since he wasn't facing me straight on, I wasn't sure if he really was in trouble or not. I didn't want to just grab a kid I didn't know out of the blue for no reason, you know? Might freak him out. So I hadn't grabbed him yet, but I was going to ask him if he was okay.
Before I could, though, the lifeguard jumps in the pool and comes for the boy, gets him out of the pool and into the back area, out of sight. From the reaction of her co-workers afterwards, it does look like the boy was in real trouble and she just got to him before it got to the true emergency stage.
I was sorry I had hesitated in grabbing him; shouldn't have second-guessed my instincts. But really, I don't know if I realistically could have gotten to him first anyhow. Maybe, maybe not. Either way, the good news is that the kid was fine. Whew.
I saw the lifeguard in the staff's glass-walled supervision room after the crisis was over, sobbing her heart out. I think she was having the classic post-adrenaline reaction after a life-threatening crisis....you handle everything fine in the moment (while your mind is thinking ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod....) and then later, when the crisis is over, your body does the ohmygodohmygodohmygod thing too.
The supervising lifeguard, an older woman, spent quite a bit of time helping her through this. From another friend of mine (whose lifeguard daughter actually saved a drowning, under-the-water-about-to-die child), I gather this is a really common, normal reaction, especially the first time you save someone.
At the end of the "free swim" time, the lifeguard was back to clean-up duties etc. I made a point to go over to her and tell her what a good job she did and give her lots of kudos. She blushed but I think she was glad to have someone acknowledge her. She confirmed it was her first save and I told her that her reaction was very normal. She thanked me, we commiserated, and then we both went about our business.
But all night I was thinking about how proud I was of her, not only as a guard but also as a woman of size. You don't see a lot of plus-sized lifeguards....I've seen a few, but never any as plus-sized as she was (only mid-sized, but still bigger than your average guard by quite a bit). Obviously she was very fit ("despite" her size, I'm sure in some people's minds) and had passed all the qualifying stuff with flying colors because that swim center has its pick of guards who train there.
I was proud of her for not listening to the usual nonsense about fatness and fitness and letting it keep her from this line of work and from saving a life. And I was proud of her boss, for seeing beyond stereotypes and hiring whomever was most qualified without regard to size.
I'm sure most people, looking at her on the street, would not think she was fit enough to be an athlete, let alone save a life, but she was, and she did a great job. Brava to her!
And bravo to all the fathletes everywhere who don't let the naysayers keep them down.