I’m going to die! She’s trying to drown me!
Suddenly, a hand wildly flailing in the air hit Adrienne on the head and pushed her under. With all her might, she tried to make it to the surface to gain control of the situation.
God, help me! She’s too strong! I’m going to drown!
Adrienne’s dad wanted her to take the final course offered by the local Red Cross. He was always proud of her accomplishments; she couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing him. But she knew he didn’t understand her fears or her limitations. She wasn’t lifeguard material—she was a good swimmer but she lacked the strength and confidence she so admired in her peers.
After weeks of training, intense instruction in resuscitation techniques, and strict dietary disciplines, the dreaded day finally arrived—the final test for Red Cross Senior Lifeguard certification. Adrienne aced the written exam, but certification required each student to rescue a drowning victim.
Adrienne was sure her instructor, Mrs. Showalter, sensed her fears and insecurities. She picked on her—the whole class noticed. Her lean, powerful body in itself was intimidating to everyone, not just Adrienne.
One by one each student was called to climb the lifeguard tower situated on a large raft anchored in the middle of the lake. Adrienne watched as each student ahead of her “rescued” Mrs. Showalter.
Immediately her legs turned to rubber. Trying to hide her fear, she climbed the ladder, praying for swift victory. Once situated, she quickly assessed the situation. The water was murky from recent rains. There was a blinding glare on the lake. As she shielded her eyes with her hand, she was momentarily mesmerized by the seagull’s chatter. Her thoughts were abruptly interrupted by blood-curdling screams.
Lord, help me!
Adrienne jumped into the lake, swimming toward Mrs. Showalter. Careful to conserve energy for the rescue, she swam at a steady but determined pace. The closer she got, the more her heart raced. Anxiety crushed her chest making it harder to breathe as she approached her victim and planned her strategy.
Mrs. Showalter was screaming—her arms were flailing in the air, then she’d disappear for a few moments under the surface of the water.
Once Adrienne was within arms length of Mrs. Showalter, she felt a heavy thud on her head suddenly pushing her down. With panicked determination to stay above water, her “victim” was holding her under. Adrienne tried to grab her arms to position her for a shoulder hold but to no avail. She was losing the battle.
In sheer desperation for her own survival, Adrienne remembered a move that was to be reserved for only the most desperate situations. She grabbed a handful of hair and began to tug. Finally surfacing, she was able to take command of the situation.
Still fighting, Mrs. Showalter tried to pull away. Adrienne pulled her closer and slapped her. She grabbed her chin, tucked it under her arm, and swam with all her might. She hoisted her “victim” onto the raft and climbed the ladder as the class watched with disbelief.
Adrienne took a few steps to where Mrs. Showalter lay on the raft and reached down to help her up. Their eyes met.
“Adrienne, I have to admit that I didn’t think you had it in you. From the first day you appeared to be anything but lifeguard material. I was wrong. If ever there was a young woman with strength and determination, you have it all.”
Adrienne was trembling, her knees still weak from the horrifying experience.
“Mrs. Showalter, I try my best never to disrespect my teachers, but I am so mad! You have humiliated me in front of everyone—I nearly drowned out there!”
“No, Adrienne. What you experienced was a dying victim, frantic for help, desperate for breath. You dared to do what no one else has ever done. You didn’t let your fear of me stop you from doing whatever it took to take control and rescue your victim. Well done!”
Later that week, Adrienne was hired as a lifeguard at a local pool. She received her certificate and badge in the mail along with a note:
“You have qualified to receive special training as a Red Cross Life Guard Instructor. Please contact Mrs. Showalter for further details.”
Adrienne folded the note, put it back in the envelope, tucked it in a drawer and went out for a swim.
Thanks, but no thanks!
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