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When I first started working out at our fitness facility, I focused on my mission—getting in, doing my stuff and getting out. I’ve never been crazy about fitness, but as I’ve gotten older, I now realize that if I want to maintain my health and mobility, I’ve got to do it.
I also began to understand that the time I spent at the fitness center would be much more pleasant if I “got outside myself” and realized that other people, for their own reasons, were there with me. And then I remembered my Uncle Al who was a fan of exercise, and he was always friendly to everyone, even if they didn’t reciprocate. He had a sweet demeanor and always greeted people with enthusiasm and kindness.
I decided I wanted to be like him. I decided that everyone would benefit from a warm greeting and smile, whether they wanted to reciprocate or not.
There are still a few people who respond to me reluctantly, although almost everyone reacts. When I happen to be on the treadmill next to the guy with a moustache and curly gray hair and I call out “good morning,” he mumbles the same back to me, but doesn’t make eye contact. That’s okay. I hope that my greeting gave him some positive energy. There’s the little black lady who asked if I was okay when she greeted me first and I didn’t respond! I assured her that I hadn’t heard her and I would always respond if she spoke first.
Most people are getting accustomed to my friendly gesture.
There’s Laurence Fishburne (he looks just like him and told me others have said so, too, although this LF is brawnier), who doesn’t have Laurence’s voice; after greeting him a few times, he stopped to talk to me one day about exercise. There’s the short, stocky guy, who now catches my eye and smiles and greets me first. There’s the woman who is in great shape and always greets me enthusiastically. There’s the fellow with white, straight hair who always meets my grin with his own. And there are many more people who return my smile and greeting, because . . . well, I’m not sure why, but we all seem to enjoy that moment of being recognized, blessed with a moment of kind-heartedness and caring.
* * * *
I think, more than ever before, people are becoming accustomed to being distant and isolated. Moving beyond that mindset becomes harder and harder. Even though most people don’t wear masks at the fitness center, they seem to have substituted them with a sense of distance and resignation. Perhaps they let their minds drift to more pleasant and satisfying times. Maybe they’re just putting together a list of errands to run later. But the idea of connecting for many of them seems foreign and difficult.
So, I’d like to think when I greet people and smile, those barriers and hardened connections loosen just a bit. A tiny recollection about the value of relationships is generated. A moment of recognition buds, then blooms, and we can remember that we are meant to be linked and be together.
And those of us who initiate those moments benefit most of all.