She stepped onto the treadmill next to mine at the gym in a town I was visiting. I had slowed down, being nearly finished with my workout. “Hello” she said with a warm smile. I returned her greeting and we began to chat. She was a cancer survivor, she told me, having spent years enduring radiation and chemotherapy. I noticed the absence of regret or resentment – of any trace of victim mentality. “I can only walk”, she told me. She had been a marathon runner before cancer struck.
We continued our conversation, each of us at the same pace on our respective treadmills. I learned she “walked” daily and was able, at this point in her recovery, to complete 10 minutes of exercise each day. I learned she had been married for 55 years to a man who was also a pediatrician: the two had worked together in a children’s clinic for almost 30 years. They raised 4 children along the way – all of whom are living nearby with “many” grandchildren. Her smile broadened when she spoke of her family. We continued sharing our lives until her 10 minutes were completed. She shook my hand warmly as she left for her car.
I watched her leave through the windows facing the parking lot of the gym. She waved to a friend while unlocking her car. As she pulled slowly out into traffic, I felt renewed – somehow transformed. My perspective had shifted in those few minutes to one of deep gratitude, to a sense of belonging…to feeling inspired and uplifted.
I have thought back on my experience with this woman – let’s call her “Joan” – and how my own life changed from simply talking with her. In looking back, I realize she taught me three things of great value that I will remember forever:
Live in gratitude always
Do what you can and be at peace with it
Don’t hesitate to say “hello” to a stranger
Living in gratitude rather than regret, accepting life as it is, and extending a warm greeting to the person next to you might be a model for change, for peace…or at least a big step forward for our world. In her simple, honest way, “Joan” spoke to a planet in pain, to a culture starving for 10 minutes of the gift of her presence. May we all learn from this woman and share her gift of hospitality and kindness, of courage and bravery, of vulnerability and generosity.
What about you? Do you have a story of someone who has impacted your life? I would love to hear. Please feel free to share your experience. Let’s begin now: “Stories of inspiration, courage, and generosity” welcome here!