“The point is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery. The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over. I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead.”
Barbara Brown Taylor (An Altar in the World)
My friend, Isie, and I meet at the Lakeshore gym every Wednesday to work out together. Lakeshore is both a rehabilitation facility and a training center for wheelchair athletes. The USA paralympic basketball and tennis teams train there. But, anyone who is over fifty-five, or who has a chronic medical condition, can also use their extra-fine facility. I chose Lakeshore over many other, closer gyms simply because there are very few nubile Nymphs and Adonises sweating away at the machines, and my old gray hair does not stick out like a sore thumb. I feel at home.
Yesterday, Isie and I worked out for about forty-five minutes and then went to the field house to walk. While we circled, curtains were lowered around the middle basketball court, and a group of wheelchair athletes began practice. What they can do in those chairs is truly staggering. On the track, around the edges, other folks with physical disabilities were assisted into three-wheeled bikes, some with only pedals, some with only hand-cranks, and they began whizzing around the courts, going the opposite direction as Isie and me. Able bodied people walked and ran on the track, and a Bocce Ball game was in full swing in the front court. At the very back, a young couple with Down Syndrome played a lively, and quite excellent game of ping-pong. Everyone in the entire field house wore big smiles on their faces. They were having fun, feeling alive. I smiled, too. It's an uplifting place to exercise both body and soul.
Lakeshore is a reminder to me that everyone has a story. People for whom my first response is sympathy, show their love of life in whatever body they possess. Their stories are good and strong, and not my story of sympathy. One man on staff there has only stumps where once he had arms and legs. He is dating the pool director, who is both attractive and able bodied. That's only part of his story, but a very intriguing part, I must say. I love being there among these stories, and being part of something encouraging.
The point is to see the person in front of me, regardless of ability, as they are, and not draped in the trappings of my own feelings and emotions. They are themselves, and exactly who they are meant to be. Though I may write about them as they seem to me, I can never really know who they are to themselves. I can only marvel at human resilience and the determination of Spirit to try out every form of life in this world. She lives and breathes in everyone and everything in creation.
In the Spirit,