The kindness of gym strangers

Rachel Flanagan Uncategorized Leave a Comment

 I had every intention of talking about mother’s day in this week’s post but something so touching happened to me this week at the gym that I had to share it with all of you.
 
I am a gym regular, and have up until recently been a 5:30am regular, before the boot camp instructor duties made me change my routine. At 5:30am we are a bleary eyed bunch of regulars, but often manage a little bit of small talk and some half smiles.
 
Recently I met a woman at the gym who is a relatively new addition to our morning group. We started talking one day about lifting, and then segued into more personal stuff – kids, family, etc. Now when she sees me, she gives me a huge smile and says, “Heeeeyyyy, girl! Good morning!!” It’s always a nice way to start the day.
 
The other day I had to put out a request on my local NextDoor website asking if anyone knew of any retired nurses in the area. I have a family member who needs some assistance at home, so I wanted to see if I could get some referrals. Living next to Chapel Hill, I knew the area was full of health care professionals, so I was hopeful.
 
But one of the responses I received surprised me. It was from my new friend at the gym.
 
“Hey, girl!” she wrote, “It’s your friend from the gym! I work during the week but am happy to help you on the weekends if you need it.”
 
From her note, I assumed she was a nurse and was just looking to pick up a little side work. When I saw her this morning, I asked her if she was a nurse.
 
“No, I’m not a nurse. I just like to help people.”
 
WHOA.
 
I have known this woman for maybe a month or 2, and just through small interactions at the gym. I didn’t even know her last name until I got her note. 

The kindness of strangers never ceases to surprise me. Maybe it’s because I’m a jaded old ex-New Yorker. In NYC, you can live next to someone in an apartment building for years and never even know their name. You become used to being in your own bubble.
 
There’s something about the gym regulars – especially the early crowd – that I’ve always liked. The tacit sense of community, the way people know your routine and give you space, and the small half smiles.
 
So my friend’s response got me a little choked up. And then she got choked up when she heard my voice crack when I thanked her for her kindness. It really took me by surprise.
 
The gym has done a lot for me over the years. When I used to run on the treadmill during my marathon training, it was a place to get in my interval workout, or just to catch up on the news while watching the overhead TVs on a slower run. On the weight floor, I’ve found a new love of lifting that I never thought would happen. I’ve become friends with the big beefy guys I used to be intimidated by. I talk to strangers. I’ve met all sorts of people. It’s like my own little Cheers, but with weights instead of bar stools.
 
But mainly it’s been my place to go where I can work out and have time to myself away from my to-do list. Sometimes if I’m going through a stressful time, a hard workout will shed the protective layer that gets me through the day and will expose the emotion underneath that I didn’t realize I’d been squelching. It’s often cathartic, but it does catch me off guard.
 
So today I am just feeling grateful for my little local gym and especially for the kindness of a new friend. 
 
And hey, happy mother’s day to my fellow moms out there. Enjoy the day!

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