Window to Winn – The Affirmation Folder

By Bob Holeman

The year I served as district governor with Rotary, Diane encouraged me to keep an Affirmation Folder.

In it you store positive cards, notes of thanks and such records which provide tangible evidence that there is an appreciation for what you do. For in life, voiced appreciation may be rare. So when you’re moving forward with the tasks of district governor (or whatever your own tasks might be), it is nice to have your own Affirmation Folder to pull out occasionally for a shot of encouragement.

Diane just received another memo to drop into her lifelong Affirmation Folder.

She taught swimming lessons for the American Red Cross for 35 years. She also taught and trained lifeguards in water rescue skills as well as in CPR and first aid. Our children Chris and Laura were a part of her water program.

This past week, Chris and family met up with another local, Brad Hearne and family, in a Gulf Shores condo on the beach for their summer vacation. It was a trip long-planned so when the approach of Hurricane Cristobal brought forecasts of bad weather all week, they proceeded with their plans regardless.

Diane received text updates on the adventure as they unfolded. Chris and gang drove Saturday to Brad’s home in Ruston to overnight, hoping they’d get an early start and some beach time for the kids before the storm hit. Update 2 showed children having a great time on the beach. In Update 3, Chris reported that there is no more beach and that the house (on tall pilings) was now part of the gulf. Their beach vacation had turned into a hurricane party with kids leaning into the wind.

But the weatherman was wrong. By Wednesday, Hurricane Cristobal had passed and was now just a tropical depression, the waters had receded to give back the beach and their Gulf Shores vacation was back on track. For the most part. The aftermath of the storm had resulted in riptide conditions. Playing on the beach was open to the children again but playing in the waters was limited.

So it was on Thursday that as the adults relaxed on these post-hurricane sands with the children playing around them, Chris’ wife Sarah observed, “I don’t think he’s going to make it.” Sure enough, about 100 yards out in the surf is a man in a life vest who is clearly distressed as he’s being pulled out to sea.

Brad, a fireman and trained EMT, is up immediately and jumps into the waves en route to a rescue.

Chris is not far behind and his lifeguard training from so many years before tells him to first assess the situation. In doing so at the water’s edge, he sees that a buddy of the drowning man has also put on a life vest but his efforts to save his friend have quickly turned to a second disaster. Even though closer to the shore, he seems to be having more trouble than his friend.

Chris who is a strong swimmer determines he needs to save the second guy first, leaving Brad to contend with the initial victim. That first rescue proved to be a little more combative that he’d have liked but they got safely to shore and Chris turns his attention again to deeper waters, taking the other man’s life vest with him.

Meanwhile, Brad’s EMT training serves him well. When he arrives at the first victim alone, he knows not to engage the man until he is calm. Brad treads water a small distance from the man, talking to him with the assurance that he’d be OK and that another stronger swimmer was on the way.

That works. By the time Chris arrives on the scene, the man is calm and willing to be towed back to shore by the spare life vest. Swimming that distance through that surf is no easy chore but they make it safely. Chris and Brad are exhausted. Two men are able to walk away because a fireman and a civil engineer happened to be vacationing on that same day.

Diane was proud of her “baby boy,” now 41, who had performed this heroic rescue. She was also proud to see that something she had done in the past has made a significant difference.

Call it another memo in her Affirmation Folder.

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