Dumb Luck?


fate


From my senior year in high school until I graduated college, I trained to be a lifeguard. It wasn’t the water. It wasn’t the beach. It wasn’t the girls. Okay, it was a little bit about the girls. But most of all, it was about being responsible.

I always loved the Lone Ranger and Superman. The thought of being the only hope for someone and coming through was invigorating. It was the ultimate demonstration of responsibility. I was sure I could handle it, given the chance. Yet, I am a far more introverted, rather than an extroverted individual. As a youngster, I admired the Lone Ranger because he always disappeared after he saved the day (Who was that masked man?). I admired Superman because he held himself out to the world in disguise. He could act heroically and feel great inside, but nobody would ever know who he really was as a person. That always intrigued me.

In any event, I sat on a chair as a lifeguard for five uneventful years. In the interim, I took all kinds of courses, and remained ready at all times to leap into action like a superhero. Through all that time, I did little more than blow a whistle, and then only if some kid went out too far.

Being a lifeguard was not overly exciting. It certainly differed from TV portrayals. After the first full year, it was downright boring. When off duty, I had to work in the food concession or clean up the beach, but it gave me a little spending money through my school years.

On my very last day on the summer job, before I headed off to grad school, I was working the hamburger, hotdog, and fries circuit, when I was asked to carry a tray of fast food to a couple sitting by the pool, on the other side of the beach. Wearing my white burger smock, I picked up the tray, crossed the sand, and walked toward the bar at the far end of the pool. With the tray in one hand and the food tab in the other, I proceeded alongside the deep end of the pool when I noticed a little girl of maybe two or three years fall into the water next to the diving board. Her frantic parents had taken their eyes off her for merely a few seconds when she wandered off. They looked for her in the wrong direction. The child fell in right next to the edge of the pool, just about ten feet from where I was walking.

The lifeguard on duty was stationed on the opposite end of the pool, and he was sidetracked while in the process of changing shifts. No one was diving, so nobody was in the deep end of the pool. I dropped the tray and the check, walked over to the edge, reached in, and pulled her out – without as much as wetting my smock.

As the panicked parents and a few patrons ran to the girl, I picked up the mess I had dropped, and returned to the concession stand to replace the lost food. The entire incident went without fanfare, except, of course, for the parents of the child who were most appreciative. I honestly did not think much of it. I slinked away rather quickly, replaced the food, and brought a new tray to the disgruntled couple who had ordered it. What I remember most about the entire incident was the fact that the customers stiffed me on a gratuity because I had delayed their food order.

Nevertheless, I thought about that little girl this morning. I wonder what kind of life she has led. I wonder if she is a good person. I would think she is, because her gift of life had nothing at all to do with silver bullets or colorful capes. It was just dumb luck.

Or was it?

 . . .

Comments

  1. Interesting take on a good story!

    You could have said, "Sorry for the delay folks, I had to save a life!" But then would Clark Kent say that?

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    1. joeh: Exactly! Thank you for picking that up. I appreciate it.

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  2. Stories are like this fabric that is weaved together to make a whole. Would you have remembered this incident had you still gotten a tip? Yep. However, not getting that tip changed the dynamic considerably. I almost hate to say it because it is such a cliche: No good deed goes unpunished. Maybe that saying came about because a real hero always takes some personal losses for everything that he makes right. It is how The Balance stays intact. I don't know of any superhero that didn't always end up taking One For The Team, in large and small ways.

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    1. Robin: I think more in terms of fate. Anyone could have lifted the girl out of the water. Why was she so "lucky"? Why are some people so unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Who knows. Maybe, it's just Nature's way.

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  3. You were placed at the right end of the pool for the right reason, dumb luck or not. You were the one.

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    1. Manzie: Is it fate? Do we all just luck out?

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  4. Yep, like Manzie said, you were exactly where you needed to be when you needed to be there. I'm not sure I believe in coincidences. (But I DID believe in the Lone Ranger, kemosabe.)

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    1. Susan: I just wonder why that little girl was spared. So many times we hear stories about freak accidents, tree limbs falling on people, lightning strikes, etc. Why was she so "lucky"?

      I loved The Lone Ranger, who had American values.

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  5. Well done, JJ. You saved her life. Now those disgruntled customers need to learn the meaning of compassion, but I think we can't save them from their insensitive mindsets. Only life can make a difference... and there is no guarantee that it will.

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  6. If that's dumb luck, then it's the best kind. I've always been a fan of the Lone Ranger too -- though I'm a little worried about Johnny Depp playing Tonto this summer...

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    1. Milo: I agree. There is only one Tonto.

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  7. There are no accidents. Whatever good she has given and received in life can be traced back to that moment when her life almost ended, and you saved her. (Funny, I just wrote about water this morning. That was no accident, either.) Most of us have never had a chance to literally save someone's life, but all of us have opportunities to bring saving energy (saving grace?) into the lives of others. Well done, kemo sahbee.

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    1. Galen: You know it is saving energy and saving grace, not me.

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  8. I am with Galen. No accidents. Now I haven't yet figured out why things turn out the way they do sometimes, not always for the better... I just know in my heart of hearts that things are the way they are meant to be. Just don't ask me why!
    I absolutely love the idea of super heroes who don't need credit for their amazing feats. I always liked Clark Kent more than the Superman character and would wait in anticipation for those parts of the story.

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    1. Jasmine: Understood. I hate the idea that the "in thing" to do today, especially in the education field, is to hold "Celebrations" nearly every day. These people, many of whom accomplish absolutely nothing, waste precious time celebrating each other for doing what they were hired to do in the first place. They should avoid the celebration meetings and devote the time to actually teaching their students. Many teachers want to be superheroes, but they love their capes. They have been tripping on them for the last 30 years.

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    2. I'm with you JJ. And please note that I wasn't referring to your story here as tooting your own horn. An interesting tale with much to think about, as you often give us...

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    3. Jasmine: Don't worry. I would never think that, and anyway, I am not sensitive at all.

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  9. I love how you were able to save her life without even wetting your smock! This is a wonderful story, and you are a true hero! I can't believe that couple wouldn't tip you after all that. We have to hope that the girl you saved is paying it forward in some way.

    Julie

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    1. Julie: I am far from a hero, believe me. However, I too hope the young girl has enjoyed a fruitful life and shares it with others.

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  10. When I read this story JJ and the comments...I had the words "Paying it forward!" running through my mind. Your actions that day, saving her young life definitely changed the course of her life. I know I'm a bit of dreamer when it comes to things like this...but I'm thinking that she was saved that day because there is probably someone out there that will need her someday.....maybe to save their life. Who knows?? I do know though that what you did, that day... her parents will never forget!

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