For the past few weeks my Saturday morning routine has been rising early and heading out to the gym to enjoy a workout with a trainer, and then a swim.
As usual, one recent training session was challenging but also very satisfying. Afterwards I changed into my swimsuit and headed for the pool.
I wasn’t sure how much I was going to swim since my legs were tired from the workout. Still, swimming calms and revitalizes me. I might not complete an hour of laps but I’d still enjoy whatever time I spent in the water.
Goggles on, I pushed off the wall, extended my arm overhead and began the backstroke, my breathing in sync with the rhythm of my strokes.
When I was finished I didn’t want to get out of the water. It was cool, soothing and relaxing.
I looked at the whirlpool, so inviting. I hadn’t been in one in ages. Because of some medical limits I’m not able to immerse myself fully in the heated water. I decided to sit on the top step.
Ah…the hot water felt wonderful on my legs!
Soon two gentlemen entered. We exchanged polite greetings and made small talk. Apparently the two men knew each other from time spent at the gym.
Suddenly one gentleman started talking about hard times and being unemployed. Then the topic changed.
“Lonely. I just feel so lonely. My wife said she was moving out…I asked her why…she really didn’t say too much…I asked her if she still loved me…was there anyone else? She said she needed space.”
“I really miss her.”
He went on to say that he was staying busy by applying for jobs, and that, he was recently hired to work a night shift. He said it wasn’t full time but perhaps if he was busy it would take his mind off his troubles, and his loneliness.
I sat there quietly, simply listening, then as I got up to leave I wished him well.
His response was surprising. He said, “It’s nice people like you who wish me well that help me to keep going. Sometimes when I start talking people look very uncomfortable and they just walk away. I appreciate that you listened, and I appreciated your good thoughts.” I just smiled and said I was glad that he felt it was helpful.
I got out of the pool to get my towel. I heard his companion say, “I’m going to pray for you.” …and as I gathered my thoughts and belongings I turned and saw the gentleman, dripping wet, kneeling outside of the pool. He laid his hand on his friend, and began to pray.
It was a chance encounter as I ordinarily head home after a swim. As I left the gym I looked around and saw people of all ages, shapes and sizes. People were pumping iron, running or walking on treadmills, stretching gingerly, riding bicycles and using other equipment.
As I looked around at all the activity I considered that each person has their own story.
It was an important reminder not to be judgmental.
I was fortunate that a stranger chose to share his story with me.
I was grateful to listen.
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