love begins with a smile, and then it grows

while in williamstown, i always make a point to visit coach sam and and his beautiful wife nancy. sam was brian’s swim coach over 40 years ago. what a difference this man made in so many young people’s lives. actually, sam and nancy were a team. she was just as involved and instrumental in changing lives, welcoming kids into their home and embracing them as if they were her own.

i used to sit in the stands with nancy watching the swimmers perform miracles in a tiny pool (that has thankfully been replaced with an olympic one). sam motivated these young swimmers to give it their all, to find ways to improve, and to be committed to a team.  he put his heart and soul into coaching, and everyone loved him. the lessons he taught were life lessons – work hard, have fun, love your village, give from your heart, and always find something to learn.

sam has a smile and laugh that just warms you all over. he’s got a twinkle in his eyes, and he reminds me of buddha, not cuz of his belly, but for the wisdom he radiates. he can tell you a story again and again, and there’s always something different in it. it’s not that he makes things up, it’s more the memory of the heart that he relays. all the emotions experienced in that memory change ever so slightly over time. and nancy sits there by his side, providing the details – she can remember names like no other, still can.

they’ve got a lot of change happening in their lives, as we all do. sam is now 84, bless his heart, and nancy is 82 struggling with parkinsons. sam has been trying to be nancy’s assistant, but it’s not an easy job.  she’s fallen twice.  you give and give, and at the end of the day, there’s the night, where you have to continue to give. there’s no time for yourself, not even to sleep.  they’ve decided to move into an assisted living place nearby, and i could hear the relief in their voices. they have friends in their new place, and it’ll be safer for both of them.

i’m not the only one who visits them whenever i can. every swimmer who ever had him as a coach makes a point to visit, to see how they’re doing, and mostly to thank them, to let them know what a difference they made in each of our lives.

sam and nancy gave from their hearts, always will.

and when you give from the heart, love returns.  always.




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