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December 19, 2014
Pebbles, Potholes, and Perspective
Christmas Lifeguarding
by Sarah Hancock

For Christians, Christmastime can be one of the most wonderful times of the year. Who can complain about the Christmas lights, egg nog, mistletoe, carols, savory treats and nativity reenactments? Itís positively joyous!

However, many people find that Christmas can also be one of the most difficult times of the year. I struggled with the holidays for many reasons when I was really sick. Even if you completely set aside my illness and its fluctuating symptoms, at the end of December Iíd sealed off another year of my illness, driving me further away from my dreams. It stankóseriously stank.

Symptoms made it virtually impossible to feel the joy of the season. I might feel it for about an hour or so in the presence of my parents or siblings, but quickly depressionís darkness gathered around and smothered me.

I experienced much the same sensation shortly after my high school graduation while boogie-boarding some rare and really rough waves in San Diego. I felt the exhilaration climbing an uncommonly steep wave when suddenly it broke right on top of me, thrusting through the water and into the sand before I could catch my breath.

My powerful swim-team legs pushed sprang off the sandy floor as I kicked hard toward the air above. Smack! My head collided into the sand again, sending a surprised exhale and an automatic inhale of salt water.

Confused, completely disoriented and frantic for air, I tried pushing off that sea floor again. At last, success. I surfaced with violent coughs, only to be pounded down again by the heavy surf.

Although Iíd gasped a brief breath, it wasnít enough. Even though Iíd ridden waves every summer through my teen years, nothing prepared me for that panicked fight for air. Gratefully, the ensuing waves were relentless and the fight continued.

Surprisingly soon I found myself in waist-deep water. There I stood, coughing out the salt water and breathing in the lifesaving air. Although I donít remember much of my childhood, nearly drowning at La Jolla Shores etched itself deep within my consciousness.

San Diego lifeguard station, courtesy of photographer and fellow San Diegan, Jim Grant. Find more pictures on his Facebook page: San Diego Scenic Photography

At Christmas, many find themselves desperately searching for that loving holiday air, metaphorically reaching, sometimes in the wrong direction, for joy and happiness ó searching out ways to surround themselves with loved ones.

The frightening thing is, some people, even though they are surrounded by people who love them, cannot feel that love. Itís not a character flaw; itís a symptom of the illness. These people live through the Christmas season, struggling to pull themselves above the pounding surf of sorrow and loneliness. They need your help. Are you willing to be a Holiday Lifeguard? Do you need a Holiday Lifeguard?

Lifeguard training is simple. Look for ways to find laughter and lift the burdens of others, even if itís just waving at the person in the car next to you. Take a moment to make a call, send a card, and/or make a visit to someone you feel might be searching for that air of love and acceptance.

Reach out. Smile at a stranger. Donate your time to an isolated person or contribute to a cause in which you believe. Serve others. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Be willing to allow others to serve you. You can make the difference in someoneís life. It doesnít take much, but doing so can be lifesaving. Together we can carry one another into the safety of the shore.

Merry Christmas everyone! Find the joy for yourself and then share this unique joy with others.


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