On Meeting Strangers in Pools
I’m not accustomed to meeting strangers in swimming pools. I’m certainly not opposed to it, but it’s just not something I’d consider being a spiritual gifting of mine. So when I met a stranger last week while swimming with my daughter in Grandma Nanny’s condo pool, I had to take some time to process the event.
It started by becoming aware of the body language of a man who had come into the pool area. He seemed down. He looked like he was carrying something way heavier then the small towel he had in his hand. Once he sat down, he began to read a book…a book that I had read too.
After I had enjoyed being my daughter’s surf board for 30 minutes in the shallow end, the man entered the pool to cool off. And again, I typically keep to myself in pools, I really do… but this man looked like he was begging for someone to punch the jello mold that he seemed to be trapped in.
So I said, “That’s a great book.”
And I only said it because it is a good book and… well, honestly I don’t know why I was saying it. I was “off-duty,” if you know what I mean.
But the man turned and just started talking… and talking… and talking… and talking. It was amazing, because it wasn’t at all annoying or inappropriate or awkward. It caught my daughter and I so off guard that we stood there, waist-high in water, utterly fascinated at the depth of human connection established so quickly with a complete stranger, all in Nanny’s swimming pool.
We learned that, until recently, he had been a successful therapist, with a large clientele, who had just been separated from his wife who he loved so very much. We learned that the shock of it all had caused him to make some significant missteps in his practice and resulted in his losing his job the day before. Ultimately, my daughter and I learned that if you hold still long enough and allow the moment to unfold, real and raw stuff unfolds right before your very eyes. The real stuff. The real deep stuff.
“I have NO IDEA why I am sharing all of this with you.”
Three minutes into the deep disclosure, I had a pretty good hunch why he was sharing it, and that hunch caused us to connect with him in a pretty transparent way. So we talked about love. We talked about life. We talked about faith. We talked about peace.
He already had a relationship with God, but simply needed someone to talk to. And I’m not sure who a therapist talks to in the immediacy of losing his career and potentially his wife. But the pool seemed like the perfect place to the three of us.
We parted ways with a handshake and best wishes. And he said to my daughter and I, “Thank you for taking some time out of your family time to listen. I will never forget this conversation that I had with a complete stranger in this pool.” And the funny thing is, neither will we.
My daughter smiled at me and then said, “That was nice of you.”
It was nice that she was able to see that people need people. Even if that sometimes is a stranger in a pool.
God, bless my new friend and give him courage for the days ahead. You know his name and what he has need of today.
”Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives…” (Col 3:16)