On The Ropes

Powerful moment in the gym yesterday that had nothing to do with training.

I went into the locker room to shower and as I was setting my bag away, I noticed a man pacing at the other end of the bench, trying to catch his breath.  I had seen him at the start of class and was wary of his presence: baggy sweatpants and street shoes, standing there looking unkempt, sporting a ratty, dirty t-shirt…not the kind of aesthetic I would expect in the gym, and it made me uneasy about leaving my belongings while I was vulnerable in a towel.

I chose to diffuse the tension by simply speaking with him.  We chatted about working out at first (dude was fit); he offered me a protein supplement packet.  I asked him if he lived around here?  There was a brief pause.  “Nah man…I’m homeless.”

I was blown away.  Did not really know how to respond at first.  He offered a bit more insight: sheltered by a local church and fed by soup kitchens, he was doing his best to turn his life around.  I didn’t inquire further but from what I gathered he previously had made a living pushing hard drugs.  I shared that I could relate on a smaller level, being a couple years in recovery from alcoholism.

We met again over by the showers.  I asked if he had an umbrella or any kind of raincoat against the storm that was brewing outside.  He did not; nor a clean shirt.  After a beat, I turned the stream off in my stall and walked back over to my locker, offering him my umbrella & polo.  It was what I had worn during the day, but I surely hope it was a better alternative to him hand-washing the sweat and dirt from the shirt he had just done a session in.

Upon sharing this encounter with my roommate she immediately said “Oh you should have invited him for dinner!”  Ever the saint, Emily.  I was just so caught off guard I didn’t think much beyond the right then & there.  He said he has a few more complimentary sessions with the gym, so I hope I see him again.  I hope what little I could offer helped.

Judge not, lest ye be judged.  Remember that the people around you, be they family, friends, strangers, lovers, coworkers, sworn enemies, or a guy in your gym training session…are all coping with their own struggles.  Perhaps some may seem more dire than others, but the fact remains: we’re all human.  A little acknowledgement of this fact goes a long way.

We only get to keep what parts of this program we give back.  Grateful for the opportunity to do so.



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