Over the course of the weekend, my husband and I spent about six hours sitting in the stands of the natatorium at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Of course we both had lists as long as our arm of things to do, but our youngest daughter had a swim meet.
The lists will always be there but the moments we shared this weekend can never be recaptured.
Two of these moments were things I will never ever forget.
On the first day of the meet, we realized that our daughter’s first event was at least two and a half hours away from the start of the meet. There were hundreds of kids swimming in events with multiple heats ahead of hers.
To pass the time, I played some mindless games on my phone. Every so often, I would scan the pool area and watch the kids. Some of the kids were hanging out on mini bleachers around the perimeter of the pool area with their teammates.
Other kids were standing by the edge of the pool watching the races. All of the kids looked the same, with only a few differences in swim apparel. One girl stood out. She was in a wheelchair.
I noticed her legs were much skinnier than the other kids, lacking the muscle tone others had. She had the appearance of a strong upper body as she wheeled herself around the pool.
She had on a another team’s sweatshirt. I assumed she was a sibling of one of the swimmers.
After a while I went back to the games on my phone. A few minutes later, there was a crescendo of applause and then a silence. I looked into the pool to see a young woman at least a lap and a half behind the other swimmers who had just finished their race.
The cheering started with a few people clapping, then more, then some more, before I knew it, the entire crowd was in a loud roar. I looked to the other end of the pool, there was the wheelchair, but it was empty.
I looked back into the pool to see the young women swimming. With only the strength of her arms and upper body, she was swimming breast stroke towards the far end of the pool.
The other swimmers in the pool watched and hollered shouts of support. Every person in that room was cheering for her. She touched the wall and headed back for her last lap of freestyle. The cheering got louder and louder as she got closer to the end of her final lap.
Tears started streaming down my face. I couldn’t control my smile. I was overcome with emotion watching this girl. When she reached the end of the pool, I jumped up off the bench and applauded and screamed.
It was like something had taken over my body and I couldn’t control myself. The crowd went wild with clapping and screaming words of encouragement. It was a moment we all shared together.
For the past two minutes, nothing mattered more to anyone in that room, than to watch that young woman finish her race.
In that moment, every person at that event was cheering for this girl who was unknown to me, unknown to probably most of us. It didn’t matter. We wanted her success as much as she did.
It was one of the best moments of my life and I didn’t even know her; I didn’t need to know her.
That night at dinner, we spoke about Jordan. I found out her name from the heat sheet. My daughter told me that Jordan was an inspiration to everyone there. She was certainly right.
I can only imagine the obstacles Jordan has overcome in her life. I don’t know anything about her history, whether she was born without the use of her legs or an accident occurred. I felt so fortunate and blessed to be able to be a part of her event.
Seeing something like that certainly puts life in perspective.
The next morning, my daughter was getting ready for day two of her swim meet. The anxiety was back. Madison knew that she was going to swim an event she hadn’t done before and was really nervous about it. She had talked herself into probably getting disqualified since she didn’t feel proficient in that particular stroke and she really wanted to go home.
I told her that we should go into the meet and check it out. We could make a decision later about scratching her name from the event she was nervous about. Then something happened. Our eyes met, we both smiled and said “Jordan.”
We both remembered the inspiration from the day before.
We both knew that if Jordan could overcome her obstacles, so could Madison. It was a moment I won’t soon forget.
Madison ended up having the best race of her “swimming career” so far. She shaved over 5 seconds off of her freestyle event that day and did pretty well in her first breaststroke event.
Every day she gets better.
Watching Jordan in the pool the day before was truly an inspiration for us. I hope we will always remember her and she will inspire us to keep going.
Sometimes people are an inspiration without intention. I reached out via email to Jordan’s coaches to have them thank her for us. She was most of the reason Madison got back in the water that day and now she will know how much she inspired us.
I imagine her knowing that she’s inspiring other young girls might just give her a little push on her hardest days. What an amazing young woman she is and they are fortunate to have her on their team. I look forward to seeing her swim again.
Thank you Jordan. You’re an amazing young woman.