Years ago my friend Caryn, now passed, rest her soul, worked at the YMCA near my house. She was a personal trainer and her specialty was training people with cognitive disabilities. Caryn was a helper. This was her career. When she died hundreds of people came. They came with walkers and with their helpers. They came helping. They came from all the agencies she’d worked at. She was only 55.
I used to work at a swanky health club in the Back Bay. There was stone and nice tile in the locker room. The members sometimes complain. Ok, they complained a lot. They complained that the water was coming out of the water fountains at the wrong temperature. If water was too cold it would inhibit their digestion they said. There was chocolate at this club. Freshly baked muffins. There were Lululemons.
I recently joined the Y near my house where Caryn worked. They have vending machines. Sometimes some water comes out of the water fountains. Most gym outfits come from Target. I have also seen flip flops and dress flats working out. There are kids and grandpas. There is a puzzle table and a summer camp. No one is complaining.
I love this Y. Almost every time I visit I see the same woman walking around the outside track. The first time I saw her I gasped and did a double take. Her quick stride, her short haircut, her baggy jacket, they all look uncannily like Caryn. I am grateful for having known her gigantic heart. I am grateful to smell sweat instead of chocolate while I am working out. I am grateful for the differently-abled man standing smack in the middle of the workout floor at Zumba class, not Zumba-ing. Just standing there with his eyes closed, swaying to the music, right arm to the sky. And to all of us around him, doing our thing while he did his.