If you know me pretty well, you know that I'm not a great swimmer. In fact, I'm really a big fan of the water, just not being in it. I love to canoe, be near the beach most of the time, listen to rivers and oceans near me. Heck, I've even gone whitewater rafting one time. (But just once.) I just never learned to swim when I was a kid. My parents didn't take the time to get me into that kind of thing, and my mom doesn't know how to swim either.
It's gotten a lot better in recent years, since having children has this crazy effect on you sometimes - ie - you have to do things you never thought you would. In my case, the first diaper I ever changed was my daughters, I never played with Barbies (and still try desparately to get out of it), and I have to spend more time in the pool than all my pre-fatherhood years combined.
I can remember the first time I felt even close to being comfortable under water. It was on a high school retreat and I asked a bunch of the guys in my small group to help me learn how to swim. It was a very big deal to me. Up until then, I had almost no comfort level when my head was under water. One of the guys had brought me two pairs of swimming goggles, he had found them at a good price since he was a lifeguard (in other words, for free.) Anyway, the goggles, and the short time with those guys in the pool really did it for me. I was becoming a merman.
This summer, one of those same guys took K for swimming lessons. One hour a day for about 5 days, and she became a mermaid. The transformation was incredible. At the beginning of the summer, it took all her nerve to put her face under water. At the end of the summer, she was swimming underneath the rope in the pool and jumping into the water. What was just as wild was to be a part of this cycle, where a student we had served came back and served one of our kids, in such a real and tangible way, because he really wanted to. When I pressed him for how much he makes for paying swimming lessons, he wouldn't even come close to telling me. I asked his mom and she said he wanted to do it for free for all the years I had served him. (You call a short Bible study, lots of Manhunt, pizza and brownies serving? haha...)
If you've been in this thing we call 'youth ministry' (which really is such a limiting term for what we long to do) for any amount of time, you know that what you get always far outweighs what you think you give.