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Today's word on journalism

Monday, October 22, 2007

Can’t Scare the Old Gray Lady:

"Good journalism for an intelligent general audience is hard. And we’re really good at it. Taking on The Times is not as easy as waving a credit card and proclaiming yourself 'fair and balanced. . . .' We have every reason to feel confident that we can hold our own if [Rupert] Murdoch decides to build The Journal beyond its business-reader base. In all the Murdoch parlor-gaming, I don’t hear anyone suggesting that he would attempt to match the depth of our coverage in culture, science, education, health, religion, sports, lifestyle, etc., etc. Not to mention business coverage that even devout Journal readers find they can’t afford to miss."

-- Bill Keller, editor, New York Times, on Murdoch’s promised Wall Street Journal challenge to Times national dominance, Oct. 16, 2007

In the pool, determined swimmer teaches life lesson to his coach

By Maddie Wilson

September 21, 2007 | I never thought I would learn one of my toughest life lessons at a swimming pool.

Actually, I must admit I am still trying to learn it. Everyone Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Sean walks into the pool for swim team practice and yells "hi" to his coach, which would be me. He always puts his clothes in the same spot, on the bin, which holds the aerobics belts. He always walks over to me and asks how early he is for his practice time.

"Only 15 minutes early today, Sean," I tell him.

"Maybe I could get in and start early," he says, and then pauses. "Wait, if I did that, would I have to swim more than usual?"

"Um, yes, Sean."

"Well, I don't want to get too tired, so I'll just wait."

He then goes and sits with his chin resting in his hands on the large wooden crate behind me while I coach the other swimmers. When it is finally 5 p.m., Sean's group excitedly jumps in. Sean asks me what lane he should be in, and when I tell him, he heads over and yells, "Is there anybody in my way? I'm gonna jump!" I tell him the coast is clear and he cannon-balls in and starts swimming down the pool. All the swimmers start swimming down the pool; but with Sean, it's different.

Sean is blind.

I've tried to imagine what it would be like to swim blind, and it scares me. I've swum with my eyes closed before, and I completely lose all sense of direction. I crash into the lane lines and feel like I'm suffocating.

And swimming is not easy for Sean, either. We have had many scary experiences. Sometimes, suddenly, I hear choking, splashing, gasping for air and screaming. Sean has lost control, or has hit his head and starts panicking in the middle of the pool. I have to call over to him and tell him to grab onto the lane line until he catches his breath. He has not been able to dive yet because he fears plunging headfirst into something he isn't even sure is there to catch him. Sean has often broken down and cried because of not being able to dive or being frustrated at not doing a stroke drill correctly.

However, Sean does not give up. And he gets down on me when I try to let him off easy during certain parts of the work-out.

"I want to do everything the other kids are doing." "I don't want to be anything less than the others." "I really want to be able to dive," are statements I've heard numerous times. One day, after finishing his leg of a relay that he struggled with, he exclaimed, "I want to be able to do this!" And he's there every Monday, Wednesday and Friday living up to that statement.

As I watch Sean battle this trial in the pool, I am inspired and ashamed. Is there anything in my life as scary as Sean's battle that I face on a daily basis? Sometimes from the way I whine to my husband, it would seem like I'm out fighting a world war on my own every day.

I don't do well with affliction. I want to live the life of Disneyland where everything is a fairy tale. I consider my day a failure and become depressed when I can't think of what to eat for lunch. But I am learning from Sean that life can be great even with letdowns and hardships. Even after a practice full of choking, banging heads with another swimmer while doing backstroke, and scraping shoulders on vicious lane lines, Sean comes up to me with a smile on his face before he leaves and says, "I worked hard today, didn't I?" With happiness, inspiration and tears welling up inside of me, I say, "You did a great job today, Sean. I'm so proud of you."

Although it's an ongoing lesson I'm learning from Sean, I know it is meant to be that I learn this great life lesson at the swimming pool. It's all about attitude and perspective. Happiness really is not given freely; it must be chased after. Or swum after. I am reminded of this every Monday, Wednesday and Friday when I see Sean almost skip out of the pool, with his cane leading the way.


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