The scene playing out at the pool was a familiar one.
As a summer lifeguard at our city’s pool, I watched with satisfaction as little toddlers jumped to a parent waiting for them in the pool. Most of the parents called up to me on the lifeguard stand and said, “Kerry, look what you taught Hunter!” Then, they would urge little Hunter to jump into their waiting arms on cue.
My part was to clap for Hunter—encouraging his feat of bravery.
Eighty percent of the time, however, I imagined my hands around Hunter’s little neck, squeezing until … wait, sorry, I got carried away there for a moment.
Let me explain my inward angst toward these beautiful little cherubs. What you don’t know is that in the weeks preceding Hunter’s daring leap, I was tasked with teaching the little demon swimming lessons.
Lifeguards don’t mind teaching swimming lessons to kindergarteners and older, but oh, those preschoolers. Not only do they reject all rational arguments to get in the water, but many of them are also quite adept with excuses. And the really young ones pee on you.
Parents expect lifeguards to produce a Mark Spitz (if you are over 40) or Michael Phelps (if you are under 40) swimmer after ten forty-five minute sessions. They have no idea that the first five lessons are simply to coax the hydrophobic hellions into the water.
Which brings us back to Hunter.
During Hunter’s first swimming lesson, he sat about six feet away from the water with his goggles on for the entire session. Never moved. Never even sniffed at the water.
This wasn’t my first rodeo however. I put him on my hip and taught the other little fish for several days. After all, swimming presented a new situation for Hunter. He was putting his life into someone else’s hands other than his parents for the first time.
On day four, Hunter stood at pool’s edge, poised to jump to me in the pool. His toes gripped the edge like a primate. The other kids chanted, “Hunter, Hunter!” to encourage their dry comrade. With a look of horror on his face, Hunter leaped … but not towards the water—towards me. It was always towards me first.
You might as well have thrown a cat at me in the water. Hunter used everything possible—fingernails, toenails, hands, feet, teeth—whatever could sink into my flesh, to avoid breaking the plane of the water.
After about five tries, I stood in the water a broken man.
Did you watch the first Presidential debate the other night? If you didn’t, don’t worry there will be two more. Goody. Right out of the gate the barbs and accusations flew, so much so that our son Jack came and told Christy and me that he couldn’t watch it because the conflict was making him uncomfortable.
I wondered aloud, these are our choices? How can such pitiful leaders be vying for the most important leadership position in our country, and arguably, the world? Another question came to mind, “Why is it that we can’t really embrace either one of them?”
Hunter finally jumped to me in the pool for one reason and one reason only. Trust. He observed me over the first three days of swimming lessons. He evaluated my speech, my promises, and my actions to the other kids. I did what I said I would do.
We are having difficulty jumping on the Trump or Hillary bandwagon because they have no character. We don’t trust either one. Trump values no one besides himself. We once thought his courage to speak the truth was a hallmark of his candidacy, but now I think we all know it is a character flaw. My parents always said if you have to beat down others to make yourself look good, you are the one taking the beating.
Hillary has zero integrity. She utilizes honesty and truth only when it benefits her position. This is not a recent development. The Clintons are career politicians with so many skeletons in their closet they could open a Halloween store.
Without character, leadership is hollow.
Hunter’s decision to jump wasn’t based on the depth of the water, the temperature of the water, or the distance I was from the safe pool edge. He was past all that. In his mind, he wrestled with whether or not he could trust me to catch him. Once he settled that argument, jumping became easy.
I was there for Hunter. I’m afraid our candidates are in it for themselves. And if that is the case, we are in for a long four years regardless of the outcome in November.