There is a little girl in my parish who dreams of being an Olympic swimmer. While listening to her story I was reminded of the games in London last summer. Watching on television was a glimpse into another world: the world of athletes trained, analyzed and groomed into perfect specimens. I sometimes felt as if I were watching characters from a science fiction film. When you hear the broadcasters describe their backstory it is almost a relief to hear that some of them have taken time off to recover and regroup after years of grueling training and competition. When you look into their faces and their almost desperate glimpses at the scoreboards after competition I read sadness not joy. Even in triumph I observe relief that all of this might finally be over.
Among the events I witnessed on television was the water polo. I marveled at the athlete’s ability to tread water for such long periods of time. And not only treading water but also simultaneously strategizing, balancing, surprising and striving. And even when the ball is not in play, they need to tread water to keep afloat. It is a metaphor for certain expressions of life today. I often feel that families are treading water. The expectations for family life appear herculean. There are those rare family exceptions who choose to step away from extraneous activities of modern family life and choose instead to embrace a simpler and more manageable lifestyle. It takes a certain courage to take such a step, the courage to be different, to not necessarily participate, to not “keep up” or do what others expect you should. Such a person is unafraid to grab on to the side of the pool and rest awhile as all the others are treading, treading, treading