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Grace can appear in the most unusual places. Sarah Torbeck recounts an incident that reveals the effects of transformative grace on a hot summer day. 

I waited impatiently, as the gears and chains of the garage door lurched and groaned over the archway before settling into relative silence. The oppressive heat rushed into the garage, and I hurried into my car before the heat could fully engulf my resolve to drive the short distance to the community pool. 

On impulse, I had decided to brave the heat, despite my love/hate relationship with bathing suits, and seek solace in the cool, sparkling water. Now as I pulled into the parking lot, I realized that every human being on the East Coast had made the same decision. I briefly thought about returning home, but I caught a glimpse of the shimmering pool water below and continued to make my way toward the community-pool subculture. 

I managed to ferret out an unclaimed lounge chair, where I hastily deposited my belongings and sat down to take off my sandals—which gave me an opportunity to silently investigate my temporary neighbors. 




I recognized the young mother settling in on my right. I had briefly noticed her when I first arrived, because she was wrestling with an inflated swan floatie and an overstuffed beach bag in the parking lot. Now I realized that she had three small children in tow, and I listened to them squeal with delight at the sight of the pool. 

“Mummy I want to get innnnn!” squealed the oldest child, who couldn’t have been more than five.  

“Hold on, Jeffrey,” she murmured. I have to find the sunscreen.” 

“But why can’t I get in now?” Jeffrey cried, as he tugged relentlessly on his mother’s arm. 

Not to be outdone, his younger sister plopped herself on the concrete, and began to pull cookies out of the beach bag, while the baby, who appeared to be about 18 months old, started to toddle toward the water’s edge. 

“Carly, wait for lunch!” her mother scolded, while simultaneously grabbing the baby’s hand. 




I thought about waiting to see if Jeffrey got his way, but ultimately decided that it was unkind to eavesdrop—so I hurried to the deep end of the pool and dove in. I relaxed into a comfortable backstroke and began swimming toward the other end of the pool, when my reverie was suddenly interrupted by laughter ... and the sounds of shrieking.  

I stopped swimming and looked in the direction of the sound. It was Jeffrey. He was screaming as he evaded his mother’s attempts to apply sunscreen. But that wasn’t the only reason for the uproar. The baby had managed to wriggle out of his infant swim trunks and was currently racing around the edge of the pool in his birthday suit, evading his sister’s attempts to catch him.  

The scene was admittedly comical, but I watched with vague apprehension as the scene unfolded. The lifeguard finally caught the baby and returned him to his mother, while Jeffrey and Carly stood there laughing. Everyone was laughing … except the mother. One could see that she was holding back tears, as she turned and started to pack up her beach bag. “Let’s go,” she cried. “We’re going home.” 

Everyone seemed to sense the atmospheric shift and started to turn away. 

Everyone … except for a tall, muscular woman in a sparkly gold bathing suit who suddenly stepped forward and began clapping. The young mother stopped and stared at the clapping woman.  

We all did. 

The woman continued to walk toward the unhappy scene—clapping and smiling. She finally stopped in front of the little family and said, “Good job, Mama. Well done! You’re a good mama. You brought your babies here for some fun on a summer’s day, even though it was really hard to pack them up and keep an eye on all three of them. My goodness, you even brought a floatie!” 




The crowd grew quiet, as we waited for the mother’s reaction. She stood there for a moment and wiped an errant tear away. The gold-bathing-suit lady turned and looked at the gawkers. “Come on, everybody!” She cried. “Let’s give this Mama some credit! Give her a hand!” 

And slowly, the other swimmers began to clap for the beleaguered, overwrought mother. It was just a smattering at first, but eventually several people began to cheer and clap as well. 

The mother smiled, and shook her head in disbelief, before returning to her chair. She seemed overwhelmed but grateful to the woman in the sparkly gold bathing suit. 


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We all have an opportunity to offer comfort, solace, and even applause if the situation warrants. #CatholicMom


Ah yes, a little mercy … a little grace … go a long way, don’t they? We all have an opportunity to offer comfort, solace, and even … applause if the situation warrants. I realize that our current culture is quick to whip out a phone in a situation like this, but that doesn’t negate our choices. We possess the wisdom within ourselves to offer Christ’s transformative grace to others in the simplest and most basic ways. 

I know that I want to be that person for others.  

I want to be someone’s pool angel. 

 (Only I’m not doing it in a sparkly gold bathing suit.) 



Copyright 2023 Sarah Torbeck
Images: Canva