I grew up in a world of cartoon superheros.
Dudley Do-Right vs Snidely Whiplash
Casper the Friendly Ghost vs The Ghostly Trio
Mighty Mouse vs Oil Can Harry
They didn’t have girl superheros when I was of cartoon age. I wanted to grow up and save the day like Mighty Mouse, but in Casper style. I wanted to save the day, sweetly. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to counseling. I’ve worked in Corrections and at Crisis and Counseling Centers. I particularly loved the 20 years I spent on the road as a trainer and public speaker. Through all of that though, it became techno-color clear that saving the day is beyond my non-super human powers.
My focus now is on saving the moment.
In Oregon, I was a manager at a beautiful resort on the southern coast. My job was to keep people happy. Staff or guests, it was a mix of problem-solving, counseling and placating.
After work, Henry and I often headed the 120 yards to the beach.
With no leash law, Henry was in heaven, chasing gulls and playing tags with the surf. It was during a beautiful evening of romp and stomp that I saw the lovely couple from Australia I’d met earlier at the resort.
The husband called out me: Hurry! You have to save him!
My heart started racing. It’s called the Wild Oregon Coast for a reason! The waves are mighty and the water’s always cold. No one could last long, tumbling in that tide.
I can swim well enough to save myself in a swimming pool. I float really well so I could survive a long time in a lake. But my glorified dog-paddle isn’t well suited to the high seas.
Run, You have to save him!
I rushed to the spot where his wife was staring at the surf. Suddenly he was there, thrashing at my feet and then pulled back out on the next wave.
Please save him!
I knew it was too late, but that was a truth they weren’t ready to hear. I rolled up my jeans and waded out into the surf. I picked up the young, dying tiger shark by his tail and flung him as far as I could. Nearly 3 feet long and heavy, I only managed to clear the next wave.
Henry, the elderly couple and I watched as he washed ashore, 5 waves later. I looked at their faces and said, I just didn’t get him out far enough. They were having such a good vacation. I wanted to save the moment.
This time I carried him out until the waves were breaking about mid-belly. I adjusted my grip as he struggled to get free, staying clear of his teeth as I gave him a mighty hurl. The tide was going out so I figured this would buy about 5 minutes.
The couple held hands as they watched and waited. I knew it was only a matter of waves before he returned. Just as I was preparing to share the facts of life with them, they smiled and hugged me as if I were their real life hero.
Thanking me for saving their vacation, they walked back up the path to the resort. I rolled down my sea soaked jeans and watched the sun begin its slide when a familiar voice called out Hey Debbie! I want you to meet my grandson!
The grandson streaked past me crying: Grandpa, hurry, you gotta save this shark! Clayton has lived in Oregon a long time. He knew. But his grandson was visiting from Nebraska. They’d just stopped for a quick peek at the ocean before dinner. I looked at Clayton’s expensive loafers and the classy-casual clothes.
I picked up my shark and once again rode the waves out and set him free. By the time I got back on the beach, the guys were beaming and heading for the restaurant.
As the sun finally dropped into the ocean, I was reminded that I may have to get my more than my feet wet to save the moment. And to be honest, there are times when I don’t want to make the effort.
Gate guarding in southern Texas, my feet, along with everything else, stay dry. Here, I have to be willing to swallow a little grit. It’s so much simpler than saving sharks. You’d think it would always come naturally but it doesn’t. I know I’m losing perspective when people become an interruption. All it takes at the gate is a smile, a few kind words and an occasional brownie. I’ll never save the day, but once in a while, I get the chance to save the moment. When I take it, it’s always worth it.