Swimming for Something Bigger Than Me

When you swim for hours, your mind wanders. For those hard-core open water swimmers out there, I will remind you that we are still just getting back into shape, so an 8k in the pool qualifies as a long mind-wandering swim for us. For the rest of you, I think that a 2 hour swim sounds just plain long.

For the first 1-3K of a long swim, my body is strong and my mind is still on my immediate to-do list.  As I relax and slow my mind down, I start to ponder more interesting topics, going from current events to philosophical world problems.  It’s not until about 6k+, when my arms feel fatigued that I begin to forget what my body is feeling. This is when I completely focus on my mind. It’s a sort of meditation of the mind that only begins after the body has settled into a rhythm.

Last Friday, as Susan and I set out to swim 8 kilometers in the pool.  Around the 5k mark, my mind started contemplating how Hurricane Sandy affected the area where I grew up and where most of my family still lives. It reminded me of how unprepared we are in the developed world to live without the electricity and gas. In most poor countries, these commodities are luxuries. We take them for granted and unfortunately cannot live without them.  During this swim, I remembered one summer in college, when I did some volunteer work in Italy. In the group of volunteers was as a couple from Armenia; they explained to me that young children learn to recognize the humming sounds of the refrigerator because it meant that the electricity was working. We have learned to tune out these sounds; in fact, we pay extra for dishwashers and appliances that don’t make any noise.

This irony of how we live does not stop here. After speaking with many who have crossed the Strait, we have learned that is not uncommon for swimmers to cross paths with a boat of immigrants from Africa. Most cannot swim. They risk their lives to escape their reality in a tiny boat with almost zero probability of crossing, surviving and being allowed to stay.  Here we are in Spain training to swim across these waters for personal challenge.

My last thoughts as we were finishing were just as conflicted,  My physical weariness led me to think: “oh Jeez, this is only half of the Gibraltar swim and I am really tired, I’ve got a lot more training to do” while my rested mind grappled with: “how can there be such a large difference in how we live over such a short distance?”  This discrepancy is a problem as big as the ocean. I  honestly believe that through literacy, countries suffering in poverty can begin to change through education.  The fact that books can be sent electronically allows for this happen at a much more accelerated rate than in the past.  Instantly, actually… and in a revolutionary way.

I know this is a small example, but yet I can celebrate that when my 7-year-old reads a new book published, that someone else’s 7-year-old in a poor African country can read the same exact book. Her surroundings might be different and her diet may be limited to what she can grow, but her mind will have the opportunity to learn and grow through the ideas books provide. And that is so freaking cool, it’s worth swimming for!

Help us in our effort to raise funds to send more e-books to Africa… click here!

Categories: Swim4Good, Worldreader


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