Sometimes inspiration is right in front of you (and slightly down)

I want to tell you about my friend Pete.

Pete and I went to the same high school. He was a grade older so we didn’t know each other well. I knew he was a bit of a joker and his small and stumpy stature added to his feisty reputation. But it was only people close to him that knew he was living with Osteogenesis imperfecta, brittle bone disease. This means that if you hugged him too hard you could break him, literally. Understandably, he didn’t play a lot of sports in high school.

Back then, I didn’t know that about him.

Fast-forward about ten years from high school and our paths cross again as we end up working for the same company. Friendship and regular golf trips with mutual buds have ensued ever since.

Over the course of the past fifteen years or so, I’ve enjoyed finding new ways to give Pete a hard time. He’s short. He can be grumpy. He likes things done a certain way. He snores like Godzilla. Any one of these traits would be ripe for picking on. Together? Yahtzee. That said, he’s a good sport and usually gives as good as he gets.

A few years ago, a mutual friend casually said, “Hey, did you know Pete swam the English Channel?” I patiently waited for the punch line that never came.

“No freaking way” I said. “Pete swam the English Channel? The real one, next to England?”

Indeed he had.

Turns out that back in his younger days he embraced the wonderfully non-contact sport of swimming with a passion. Almost on a dare, he set out to do what very few have ever done. He also never really made a big deal about it.

I think it’s a big deal. My abrasively funny, stumpy, knucklehead of a friend is also hugely inspirational. It’s a hell of a thing he did and he’s living proof that you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to, no matter the hurdles.

So it is with a great deal of pride that I tell you about my friend Pete, who, 25 years ago this month swam the English Channel.

His 9 hours, 57 minutes of heroic effort ranks in the top 10% of all crossings.

Well done, Pete. You got me on that one.