I was between my sophomore and junior year at Texas A&M and was working as an assistant pool manager for the Texas City Parks and Recreation Department. As part of my responsibilities, I also coached the summer swim team. A regional meet determined who would swim in the league championships, and the coaching staff entered the swimmers in events we thought gave them the best chance to succeed.
Eleven-year-old Melanie was particularly disappointed because the events we chose for her were not exactly her favorites. We went for a short walk around the pool and I stopped and asked if she trusted me. She replied that she did, and I explained that I had had not only seen her swim, I had also seen her competition. She promised to do her best.
After qualifying for the championship with two first places and a second, Melanie was all smiles, her brown eyes gleaming. I followed the team bus back to Texas City in my truck and started to unload the equipment and supplies as the parents began picking up their kids. It was raining, and Melanie and the other kids quickly left. When one car turned around and headed back, and I assumed something had been forgotten.
Melanie suddenly hopped out, ran through the rain and enthusiastically threw her arms around me. She looked at me with a broad grin and said “Thanks, Coach!” She got back in the car with her proud, smiling father and left. I decided on the spot what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and I became a Parks & Recreation major that fall.
I haven’t seen Melanie since that summer, but that rainy July afternoon seems like yesterday. And it always reminds me that I’m in Parks and Recreation to make people smile.