Be the Little Engine

Years ago (in the late 1970s and early 80s), I taught swimming classes in the summer. In addition to teaching the school age kids, I also taught the preschool age kids (ages 3-5) and adults. My favorite were the preschoolers.

Some were scared to take their hands off the edge of the pool and hold onto the kick board, but others were fearless. Those were the children I had to be careful with. The ones who didn’t know enough about swimming on their own to be able to hold their head above water, but were too excited to wait till I got to the end of the pool to help them with their turn. (I was always grateful to the guard who would remain close to these kids.) These were the kids I had to start to talk to before I was half way back to their end of the pool. Their excitement showed in their faces and in their movements – they would be open to anything I asked them to try. Sometimes they would even come back with the idea that they wanted to try it on their own.

The other preschoolers ranged from cautious to panic stricken. The cautious ones would wait until I was completely next to them. I would ease them into the water and show them where to place their hands. They would listen and work to make their way to the end of the pool.

The panic stricken were the ones I felt the most compassion for. Where had they learned to fear the water? Where had they developed the lack of desire to learn something new? Most of these children would take at least two class sessions clinging to my neck, some would also wrap their legs around my waist, and some would only enter the water if I held them around the waist while they held me in a death grip. Then I worked to slowly pry their legs off and stretch them out so they could kick. Later, I could move their arms from around my neck and place their hands on the kick board. Eventually, they were doing it all themselves.

Many times, I would sing or tell stories as I worked with the kids. One of my favorite stories was “The Little Engine that Could.” Many times I had these students for more than one set of classes. I would start with the Little Engine’s question about whether he could make it up a hill; them we moved to his chant “I think I can. I think I can;” and finally, when they were performing a skill on their own, the statement became “I knew I could. I knew I could.” By this time, the fear in their eyes was replaced with a wide grin.

As an adult, we developed fears. Fear that we can’t do something, that we won’t be good enough, that changing jobs or retiring might not be the right decision. What is your fear that needs to be overcome? Why are you afraid to take those first steps?

You need to look at what is in front of you and determine your own “why”.


When you had unmasked your fear and examined why you are afraid to take the first steps toward something positive, stand in front of a mirror and






Thanks for reading.


As you move through your day-to-day activities and responsibilities, please remember to

Live Life –

Keep Things Simple –

Look for the Positive –



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