I might get hypothermia on Saturday. I might get frostbite. I might scream an expletive in front of either children or news cameras. And while I probably will regret it immediately afterwards, when I can’t feel any part of my body, after I thaw I’ll remember why I decided to jump into freezing cold water. And it will totally be worth it.
I’m stepping way outside of my comfort zone this weekend. It takes a good 20 minutes for me to get into a pool in the summer because the water’s kind of cold. It’s supposed to be 48 Saturday. Outside the water.
I have a good reason to freeze though. I’m doing my first Polar Plunge, benefiting Special Olympics.
I told you some about my experience with the organization before. And explained how being a part of that group for the past year has changed me.
I told you about the boy who waited for me to announce his name before he went up to bat at the softball tournament, who, when I announced it, raised his arms in the air, and let out a yell followed by one of the biggest, best smiles I’ve ever seen.
It’s because of that boy, and others like him, that I am doing this. It’s because of people like Marcus.
That’s Marcus. At the state bowling tournament last fall, I was a lane worker. Being a lane worker is one of the best, most fun experiences ever, because your job entails making sure people take their turn in the correct order, and giving high-fives, hugs, smiles and words of encouragement to the athletes before and after they bowl.
The guys on my lanes – my guys – were excited about every pin. They were amazed by every strike. Every time pins fell they’d turn and look at me, their eyes asking, “How’d I do???” And every single time, I responded with a smile, with a “GREAT JOB!”, “That’s OK!” or a high-five/fist-bump. And they smiled back, proud of themselves, no matter if it was one pin or all 10.
Marcus was one of the athletes on the two lanes I was in charge of. They ranged in age from about 25 to 50. Before we started the games, I went around and introduced myself to all of the athletes, shaking their hands and wishing them luck. Before the end of the day, Marcus and another athlete, Ricky, would become my best friends.
This is Ricky.
Between frames, I talked with each of the athletes about themselves – where they lived, where they worked if they worked, what other sports they played, what score they thought they’d get.
Marcus is from the southern part of the state, and while he works at a grocery store right now, he has dreams of becoming an EMT. “I’d save your life,” he told me.
One of the topics of conversation among the guys on my two lanes – which didn’t include me at first – was women. Marcus was talking about how he used to be engaged but wasn’t anymore, and wasn’t sure if he wanted to be again, because “women take all your money.”
That’s where I came in. I told him I begged to differ, and he must just be picking the wrong women. So he asked if I was married, and if I was did I take all my husband’s money? Nope, I said, and if I was, I still wouldn’t, I had money of my own.
That made him smile, and he said “Maybe I should marry you.”
“That’s not a very romantic way to propose,” I said.
So, going along with the joke, he politely asked me to marry him. And I told him yes.
The rest of the game, he called me baby. “Did you see that strike, baby?” “Did you see how many pins I got, baby?”
He said “Wait till I tell my friends, they ain’t gonna believe I got a fiancee today.”
He asked about my family, and I asked about his. He told me he loved me (talk about your whirlwind romance.. ) and we talked about our jobs and what we liked to do until it was time for the awards ceremony.
I watched athletes beam and cry happy tears, proud of themselves, if they came in first or fifth. I watched one of my guys raise his fists in the air with pride as his family snapped pictures of him like they were the paparazzi. All the while, my fiancee for the day, was looking at me. I was holding my camera and he, the second-place finisher, was holding his medal and facing me. “Get a picture of this, baby,” he said.
So I did. I took three.
Will I see my friend Marcus again? Maybe. Will he remember me? I don’t know. But for that day, I was his number 1 fan and he knew it. And that made him happy.
And that, my friends, is reason 1,213,090 I am jumping in cold water on Saturday. It’s one of a billion reasons I will continue to volunteer with Special Olympics.
So this is the last time I’ll ask, this year anyway. Please donate, even if it’s just $5. Every little bit helps and it goes towards amazing athletes like my friend Marcus. And the smiles from him and his fellow athletes during and especially after these sporting events are worth every penny.