Empathy for Others Experiences…..

I’ll never forget the story a friend I met at camp told me about the manner in which she lost half of her family. She was born and raised in Spain and was of Spanish/Jamaican descent, but ended up in Canada due to losing her mother, therefore having to immigrate to Canada and live with her father. She told me that she watched helplessly as her mother and a few of her brothers drown in a flood in Spain. I listened in horror and was speechless. We were teenagers, and I couldn’t imagine losing my mother, much less half of my siblings…..I noticed the way she spoke of her fear of  water, going into lakes/swimming pools, and never learning how to swim because of it…..This made me look back at my experience with swimming, that happened to be awkward. I grew up attending summer “sleep away camp” as a child, but never fully knew how to swim. Due to moving around so much, I consistently missed some of the swimming lesson’s provided by whatever school  I was going to. There was so much going on, I never had the opportunity to fully learn. I even remember getting the chicken pox literally the FIRST day of swimming lessons once we moved to our permanent address, something always came up. Since my mother was a single mother, she couldn’t afford proper lessons for us, it wasn’t a top priority…..

At camp, I felt embarrassed having to wear the bracelet you are required you to wear that indicated you were NOT allowed in the “Deep End.” I wasn’t afraid of the water, I knew how to float, how to kick , but I still didn’t fully know how to swim…..I felt a sense of shame, watching the other children play in the water…..

I eventually  learned how to swim, very well. I was enrolled in swimming lessons and passed with flying colours, but it took time to get over that insecurity. There were a lot of bad memories, life experiences that were attached to not learning how to swim. Missing out, constantly moving from place to place, because of our father’s mistakes….My friend’s experience helped me value and appreciate my experience dealing with swimming, which can be a source of shame for those who are passed a certain age and never learned to swim. She went through WAY worse than me, losing her mother and some of her siblings, never feeling safe enough to enjoy the water, and attempt to learn to swim…..Her story became a part of my life experience…..I couldn’t empathize enough.


~Dawn Lovely

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