I am reminded of the old adage, “No matter how bad you think things are, someone else always has it worse.” This past weekend, my family members gathered, as they always do, at the Jersey shore to celebrate the Fourth of July. I wasn’t there. I was the only one missing. Homesick doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel. Even now, there’s a hole in the pit of my stomach, the feeling that I am left out of a shared family experience, that I am missing precious moments I can never get back, that a piece of life has now passed me by.
I have to remember that there are people who are missing out on far more than I am. Mothers that have lost children, children that have lost siblings, siblings that have lost classmates, all the result of a drowning that could have been prevented. I am missing my family (and hopefully they are missing me) for a long weekend, but those mothers and siblings and classmates will miss their loved ones forever. Thousands of moments that they will never get back, and even more that they imagined that will never be realized.
Talk about life passing you by. With longing and regret, parents of the deceased mark the milestones that would have been cause for celebration. Birthdays and graduations and weddings for the child’s friends all go on without happiness or hoopla for the family of the one that’s missing. And no matter how much they work through their grief and “move on”, these mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters will spend the rest of their lives wondering what life would have been like had that child lived.
It’s during times like these, when I want to throw a big pity party for myself because I have to work while everyone else has fun, that I remind myself I made a conscious choice to serve people during their leisure time. That means that often on a Saturday evening or Sunday afternoon, when my family and friends are enjoying their cocktail parties and barbeques, I am not there. I am working to provide what other people need to ensure that their parties and barbeques will be without stress or worry or obligation or tragedy.
I hate to miss a good summer party. Every one is a new memory. That I have great memories of summer and now don’t seem to get one is ironic yet fitting. At Backyard Lifeguards, our goal is to ensure that any party we serve is ultimately not all that memorable. Years from now, no one will recall what salad was served or how fabulous the host looked, and they may take for granted that everyone who came left in one piece. And that’s good. Because the alternative is to have a party eternally etched in everyone’s mind for all the wrong reasons.
We never want to ruin anyone’s good time. But we know it’s so easy when you’re having fun to overlook the fact that life is precious and fragile and that pools are inherently dangerous. You get caught up in conversation and forget to watch the water. If we can be there at a critical moment to see someone struggle and spare them from harm, then it’s a good party. And worth a little personal sacrifice.