source I work out at a small, low profile gym in an equally small town. Driving by at any given time of day you might see anywhere from zero to maybe 8 cars parked out front. What you can’t see is the magic…the gold…inside. In my little gym, I met and worked out with a trainer who helped me find a part of me I sort of lost. In my gym, I can sometimes be the only one there and it feels like my own huge gym! (I may or may not dance and sing out loud when that happens…video cameras or not. Shhhh. Don’t tell!) In my gym, I’m inspired by the regulars who show up every day, many at 5 or 6 am. They aren’t massive, hulking body builders, they’re people from different walks of life who make fitness a priority. And because of that, there exists an inherent camaraderie, like we’re all on the same team.
One of my favorites is a man named Gene. He’s the kind of guy who is always smiling. He has this spark, like a really bright spark, in his blue eyes. He’s been there since I joined over two years ago. He’s in his 60’s, a Vietnam war veteran, a husband and a father. I remember the day he told me excitedly the plans for his wife’s birthday, saying he always showered her with a birthday week. He asked about my sons, showing interest and sincere compassion. He’s that person you meet who looks you in the eye and talks with his heart.
Like most stories, there’s more. Gene has stage 4 cancer, he’s in that place where his days have been numbered for him, an exact number, according to doctors. Yet…he never looked down. Always smiling. There are times when I don’t see him for a few days and I know he’s home wrestling with the effects of chemo. And just as I’m starting to worry, he’s back. The last time we spoke he was planning a trip. An 8 week road trip to meander across the country. He explained it had always been his dream. As he told me about it, I noticed tears welling in his eyes.
I asked why and he couldn’t find the words. I suspect it had to do with time. Maybe tears of gratitude for being able to go on the trip. Maybe tears of sadness that it might be his last trip. Maybe the prospect of being away from his family for 8 weeks. Regardless of why he teared up, I realized being so brave and happy is a huge responsibility. And maybe he just needed someone who would sit with him to shed a few tears. Maybe he really is a mortal man, but to me, he’s like a super hero.
I haven’t seen Gene for almost a year now. I feel his spirit in my heart reminding me to smile, to reach for my dreams and, for sure, to keep showing up.