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So Shines a Good Deed in a Weary World
An old man in a wheelchair rolls into the gym...
This morning at the gym, I couldn't use my usual treadmill because it was out of order, so I switched to the row behind it.
After about 10 minutes or so, I sensed movement in my peripheral vision, and noticed an older man, maybe in his late 70s, in a wheelchair, heading my way.
I'd seen him before once or twice, but never really saw what he did when he was there. This time, he pulled up to the treadmill next to mine, and slowly, painstakingly, pulled himself up out of the chair to get onto the treadmill. His legs were stiff. He set the speed to 0.7. Then he started to awkwardly walk.
I don't know what condition he has, and I didn't ask. I paying attention to my book, but was impressed to see that he could do even that much. You could tell it wasn't easy. Before long, he turned the incline on the machine way up to a 7, and the speed to 0.9. He must have walked for nearly 40 minutes.
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Near the end of his session, one of the young guys who works the front desk at the gym came back to speak to him. I thought at first that they knew each other. I paused my audiobook so I could hear what the young guy was saying. The older gentlemen had hearing aids, and he couldn't hear either, so he leaned over and asked the young guy to repeat himself.
"I said," the young man repeated, "that I wanted to tell you I have so much respect for you for coming in here every day and doing what you do. I just wanted to tell you that."
"Well, thank you for saying so," the older man replied.
The young man nodded and headed back up front. The old man went back to finishing his walk. After a bit, he lowered himself back out of the treadmill into his chair, strained to reach his water bottle on the ledge (I almost asked if I could help, but I could see his self-reliance and determination), and wheeled himself back out of the row.
The 20-somethings of the world these days often get a bad rap for being cynical and self-absorbed and disrespectful towards their elders. And sadly, there really is a lot of that. But this was the polar opposite of the "Ok Boomer" mentality. This was straight up, man-to-man respect. That young guy had nothing to gain by what he said. He was just impressed, and wanted the man to know.
You love to see it.
"How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world."
-William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice (but also Willy Wonka, Gene Wilder edition)