Yesterday morning, after a full week of too much sugar, very little exercise, and a whole lot of whining, I dragged my sorry self to the gym for a quick interval run intended to magically mitigate some of the damage I’d done. I wasn’t feeling particularly kind, or generous, or friendly, so I hopped onto the last available treadmill, eyes down, with every intention of zoning out completely.
Because I was so clearly sending “stay away” signals, I was pretty surprised when the teenager on the next machine over greeted me with, “Good morning, ma’am! How are you today?”. He caught me so off guard, in fact, that all I could manage was a quick finethankshowareyou while I pretended to be very busily entering my weight, speed, and preferred incline. But it was his reply— I’m outstanding, thanks for asking– that really gave me pause. Here was this kid– a high school student, I guessed–working out first thing on Saturday morning, and he’s outstanding?
While I slogged through the next 45 minutes, he spent the rest of his time walking hard and encouraging his buddy, clearly struggling on the treadmill to his left, to keep going, don’t give up, let’s go a little faster, just a few more minutes. And when an older gentleman in a warm-up suit– his drill team instructor, I later learned– came over to let him know it was ok to stop, he thanked him and challenged his friend to join him in running the last two minutes.
When those boys reached their imaginary finish line, they were sweaty and exhausted, but still smiling– and it was just about everything I could do to keep from tearing up. And as I wiped down my machine, stretched, and headed for home, I gave thanks for these little lessons (and those sneaky, unexpected young teachers) that keep showing up, over and over again, to remind me what real accomplishment looks like– and to help me remember the kind of person I want to be when I finally get it together and grow up.