The Making of a Pool Rat

Growing up, we were pool rats in the summer. My mother grew up on the banks of the Allegheny River, so spent part of every day (except Sunday) in the river. As soon as a public pool was available in our town, we were there – sometimes twice a day, cooling off in the evening when there was no such thing as air conditioning! I took a swimming class to satisfy a physical education requirement in college, taught a couple of beginner classes, and swam with the synchronized swimming club. Then came jobs, children and responsibilities that limited my pool time.

About twelve years ago, I accepted an invitation from a friend to begin swimming again for exercise and strengthening muscles. My first day at the pool was torture! I wasn’t sure I could swim one length without stopping. But Judy made sure to introduce me to all the regular swimmers, who encouraged me to keep trying. Over time, I built up strength and endurance, but there were still many days when I would have preferred to stay in bed. There’s no better accountability group than (mostly) old people, many of whom bore the scars of operations, who are willing to get up and out in the dark and cold of winter mornings to be at the pool by 6:30 a.m. If I missed too often, they would be asking where I was. When I was tempted to roll over and go back to sleep, I would feel ashamed that they were determined to stay healthy and keep moving, and I wasn’t. This week, after a months-long layoff due to the corona virus pandemic, the pool reopened for limited lap swimming. Once again, I’m aching from the laps I’m determined to do. Even though this is a different pool, I am still lifted up by the people who were so encouraging to me many years ago.

Being accountable to one another is a powerful motivator. Whether it’s swimming or some other form of exercise, an opportunity to learn a new skill, the decision to be more attentive to Bible or other study, all goes better when we are accountable to someone. We all do better with a cheering section, even if it is only one voice. (Accountability, by the way, is not the same as nagging someone to do something they are not yet ready to do. Like dieting.) Often, accountability works both ways. At the same time we don’t want to disappoint our cheering section, they don’t want to disappoint us by not showing up. Strangers become friends, friends may become confidants and sources of wisdom and reassurance. Relationships are built that bond us beyond our shared activity. What works for exercise, diet, or learning also works in our faith life. Let us be encouragers of one another, not nagging about what we “should” do, but applauding the steps we make on the journey of life. We, and the world, will benefit from relationships of accountability and love.

(By the way, I made it to the pool five days this week, for a total of 2.2 miles, thanks to my accountability friends.)

Stay safe and be blessed,
Pastor Barbara


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