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Monday, July 18, 2011

Mastering The Lake

Volunteering, how to do it, where to do it, and why... Mrs. Scarmuzzi was one of the people I encountered as I grew up who taught me some of my values about giving back to my community. Who was she?  She was my swimming instructor.  Because we lived so far 'out in the sticks' there weren't a lot of places to go in the summer time--you had to make your own amusement--but we all lived either on a lake or very near one.  And since we didn't have a lot to do, swimming was a big part of our summer.  Not in a pristine pool with all the accouterments of a fancy swim club, no we swam in cedar lakes, right next to the fish, the turtles and the ducks.  And thanks to Mrs. Scarmuzzi we all swam like fish too!  Thanks to her, none of us ever drowned.

Every summer Mrs. Scarmuzzi made sure of just that--she taught not just a few of us to swim, not just kids who had money for lessons to swim, but every child who was interested in learning to swim (and some whose parents probably made them show up to lake-proof them) how to swim. 

We started with beginning Red Cross classes and took classes up to and including senior life saving and a survival class. Mrs. Scarmuzzi taught all of us, day after day, year after year, every summer until we all had learned everything there was to know about swimming and survival in the water.  We weren't quite ready for the Navy Seals but Mrs. Scarmuzzi taught us all how to swim well enough that none of us drowned and many of us went on to become life guards or to teach swimming ourselves.

How did we thank her? I can remember baking her brownies (with my skills likely Duncan Hines) (as though brownies were ever enough to pay a woman back for teaching me a life skill that kept me alive, but what did I know, I was only ten or so when I remember baking those), but even then I appreciated what it took for her to take her whole summer to teach all of us swimming.  I know as a child I didn't realize just how huge a gift that was to the parents in the community, but as a parent now I fully recognize just how crucial what she did was in our small community.

But Mrs. Scarmuzzi didn't stop there.  She recruited some of the kids who were in the upper levels of swimming to help out on days when she invited inner city kids to come to the country and experience a day on the lake.  I'm not sure who got more out of those days, us or the kids who came and were awed by fishing, boating and swimming.  Mrs. Scarmuzzi was one of the women who taught me how to give back-graciously.  I'll never forget the lessons she taught me--not just the ones about swimming but the ones about giving of herself and her time to others.  All of us thank this gracious woman for teaching us more than she probably ever realized every summer.  And thank her for sharing her swimming skills as well.

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