There is something very special about this picture. I looked at it again today and did not even realize tears were falling down my cheeks until they dripped down my shoulder. This was taken yesterday at our community pool. I am recovering from pneumonia. Who gets pneumonia in the summer? Someone who inhales apple pie during an apple pie eating contest. Note to self do not stuff your face with apple pie and then bust up laughing. Diagnosis Aspirated Pneumonia. Thus even more precious the story that unfolds next.
Ethan has struggled with learning to swim. Rumor has it that deaf kids have a hard time with balance, and more so with water. So I have allowed Ethan the security of his life preserver to give him that security he feels he needs. The reality is that he has learned the necessary skills to swim. Imagine if you will, being deaf. Now close your eyes and think of going under water with your eyes closed. Completely cut off from the world. Even for a few seconds, this is very scary for a child.
Ethan watched as kids lined up to jump out the the knotted rope. Climbing it and then letting go into the 9ft. deep waters. He wanted to do it and stepped in line. I sat on the sidelines and laid back to watch. Doing my constant mommy scan. Eric over there, check. Emerson with Amber (the sitter) check. Ethan in line, check. Ethan signaled for me to come over to him. He said "mommy the guy keeps talking to me but I can't hear him." This was the life guard. I asked him what he might be telling Ethan and also explained that he is deaf and can not hear him. (How did we miss this life guard. I was certain I had informed all of them that this boy is deaf. ) Apparently you can not go into the deep end of the pool with a life jacket, nor can you jump to the rope with a life jacket. I explained as best as I could with gestures to Ethan. Ethan walked away with his head down, and trying hard to not let the other kids see him cry. My heart sunk. He wanted so bad to try this.
I hugged him and knew that I had to allow him his moment of frustrations and disappointment. I tried to tell him that if he removed the jacket he could do it, but he would shake his head back and forth with a definite NO.
After about 20 minutes he came to me and took his jacket off and pointed to Amber. Suggesting that Amber get in the water and wait for him. Amber came. Ethan stepped in line. And then for the next couple of minutes with the barrier of language Amber communicated with patience that HE could do it. I watched her facial expressions, her hand gestures. Assuring Ethan that she would be there in the water waiting. I watched and then took this picture of her showing him that he could jump on that rope. He could do it. He looked out, scared and Amber persevered with helping him along.I love this picture of Amber showing him that he could do this. I love how she communicated with this deaf boy. That his handicap was not going to hinder this huge challenge for him. A few more minutes went by. This was a big deal for Ethan. Not only to be up on that short platform, but then make a leap into the 9ft deep waters below that rope he so desperately wanted to hang on. I would like to say that I was the hero of the day. Don't we moms want to be that for our children. I was not the one in the water, talking this kid off that platform. I was not the one smiling up at him and telling him he could do it. This precious sixteen year old, who had gone head to head with Ethan two days before, and that same morning as he tried to pull every baby sitter trick in the book. She did not carry any frustrations of how he challenged her the hours or days before. She got in that water and with her tender heart forgot all that and helped that nine year old boy succeed.
It might be kind of hard to see, but Ethan took that leap. There he is swinging like Tarzan. The biggest smile on his face. No fear or trembling. As promised Amber went a little ways out to assure him that she was still there for him. When Ethan dropped into those deep waters he swam. He swam hard and without any help from Amber made it to the side of the pool. Guess who spent the rest of the afternoon going off that platform and swinging from that rope, dropping and swimming to the edge with no life jacket.
In many ways this paints a story of God's love for each one of us. His patience and kindness to continue to show up when we do not deserve it. To encourage us when we fear the obstacles ahead. To come alongside and NOT always hold our hand, but just be there so we can grow. That Shephard, just within reach but not hovering. I was reminded of this verse today.
Psalm 145: 17-19
"17 The LORD is righteous in all His ways And kind in all His deeds. 18 The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. 19 He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and will save them." Ethan really did challenge Amber this week. She was always firm with him. She did not back down with him. And then when it came time to trust her with one of his biggest fears, that strong girl he knew he could trust. She had already proved herself strong and trustworthy to him. Ethan so desired to hang onto that swinging knotted rope. And there Amber was ready to save him if he needed her. God designed this precious girl to care, to love and challenge in a way that would encourage and grow the heart of a little deaf boy. And in her life reminding me of this Psalm 145.