One Sunday afternoon in February I had three conversations at the gym. I’m not very good at chit-chat (unless it’s about old records or baseball) but I must be getting better because I’m getting to know several of the guys there. I’m going to share some of what I’ve learned through these three conversations — three human dramas I would have missed had I not opened myself up a little more.
The stories are all true. Just the names have been changed.
Cody is one of the janitors at the gym. He’s been at his job for quite a while, cleaning up horrible messes for $9 an hour. In February he took on a second job, washing dishes at a busy restaurant. He would go from the frantic morning shift right to his janitorial job, day after day, without complaining. At least I never heard him complain.
One time someone left a pair of Nike shoes at the gym – shoes that went unclaimed. Cody let the management know he was interested, and when no one claimed them, they became his. Cody was so happy to have a nice pair of shoes. He made sure he showed them to me.
He did such a good job as a janitor that another gym made him an offer, at four dollars an hour more and weekends off. He’s taken that job and has quit his restaurant job.
John also works at a restaurant – as a kitchen manager. Three years ago, at the age of 32, he had his last drink. John has three kids – 8, 9, and ten years old. He admits he was a bad father to them while he was drinking and is making up for it now. He’s happy, and he looks great, channeling his energies into health and fitness while conquering his addiction. He even got his kids interested in exercising, which is always a good thing. He also pushes me if I’m slacking at the gym, which I admit I need sometimes.
Clay is also a dad, but his problem was food. When I first met him, he weighed 290 pounds. He came to realize that his children probably wouldn’t have their dad for long if he didn’t change some things. He now reads food labels, watches his portions, and exercises. As of February, he had lost about 35 pounds.
He told me after changing his diet, he ate a cookie at his daughter’s birthday party, and it didn’t taste good to him. His tastes are changing, and so is his waistline.
I had no idea how old Clay was because of all the excess weight. I can already see a difference. He’s a lot younger than I thought he was. He, too, is taking his life back.
Other Conversations At The Gym
There are many other stories among the men and women at the gym, both young and old. There are the soon-to-be high school graduates who are going into the military because they can’t afford college. There’s the guy who lost his job after Hurricane Irma severely damaged the place where he worked. There are people starting relationships and others who are painfully ending them. Every face tells a story. Every story should be heard by someone.
I, too, have stories to tell – my own battle with addiction, several years ago; why I walked away from my TV career; how my life has been impacted by being a sexual abuse survivor. Perhaps one of those stories can inspire someone else, the way I’ve been inspired by these conversations at the gym and some guys I would never have met had I not stepped out of my safe little bubble.
How many stories are all around you, just waiting to be heard?
– Jeff (Jeff’s Journal)
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Vinyl Record Collector