Frank and Murray are best friends and they love to play together. Every day they swim under the sea and over the moon, under the sea and over the moon, under the sea and over the moon… Oh, did I mention Frank and Murray are imaginary fish? They truly are two incredible fish, capable of incredible things and became two of my best friends a few summers back when I was teaching swim lessons in my hometown just outside of Chicago.
It was March, my senior year of high school, and I was beginning my lengthy search for a summer job. Summer jobs were always tricky to find and unless you started early, you would be stuck with one that wouldn’t even pay enough to buy your lunch for the day. That March however, I got lucky and noticed an ad for a swim lesson instructor at a recreation center not far from my home. I decided to apply because the pay seemed great and I grew up a competitive swimmer. Honestly, how hard could it be?
I got the job but I significantly underestimated its job description. Every morning I would get up at an unrealistic time for the summer to get in freezing water with a huge smile on my face. Usually, I would get out of the pool with a few more bumps and bruises than when I had arrived, which made me dread getting in that much more. The job constantly tested my patience. The kids would not listen, occasionally become dead weight and sink to the bottom and then run out of the pool crying to their moms and dads that swim lessons were scary and no fun. It was all awful until my boss introduced me to Frank and Murray.
Frank and Murray were imaginary fish that my hands would magically transform into when I needed the kids to swim freestyle. I would start by demonstrating that the fish loved to swim under the sea and over the moon by moving my arms in a freestyle motion. I would then let each kid take turns swimming with Frank and Murray by themselves. Due to the immense concentration it took imagining that their hands became fish, the distraction allowed all of the children to became more comfortable in the water. Just like magic, they were swimming all by themselves.
Frank and Murray taught me something more than simply how to teach children to swim. They taught me the power of imagination and its incomparable ability to transform a frightening experience into something fun. Teaching swim lessons was the hardest job I ever had but the most extraordinarily rewarding one I have had to date. There is no better feeling in this world than witnessing the learning process first hand through the imagination of a child. Equally, there is no better investment in this world than in the imagination of our children. As our home is plagued with more conflict and terror each day, it will be our children who will imagine new ways to make this scary place something just as fun as swimming “all by yourself” on a warm summer day.
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