Friday, May 19, 2006

The Human Spirit Prevails

One of my favorite activities at the beginning of a day is to go to the gym. Whether I am pedalling furiously on the stationary bike, pulling the chain on the rower, or exuberantly lifting weights, the gym is one routine that I have always enjoyed. It is both energizing and exhausting, and so very satisfying when I sit at my desk afterwards, with a hot cup of coffee and and a protein bar, ready to start my day.

One morning last week was just like many others. I was on the rowing machine, steadily pulling and retreating, trying my hardest to keep up with my pre-injury pace. I was in the zone, as I normally am, barely noticing the man on the machine beside me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that his movements were somewhat jerky, and he had a rather short pull length. I didn't think much of it, as that is oftentimes the perogative of the user. Until I looked more closely.

He had an artificial leg.

From mid-thigh to foot, his right leg was a man-made entity, not quite able to extend fully to the motion of the rower. The man sporting it was pulling furiously, sweat dripping off his forehead, pushing himself to the very limit in the last few minutes of his exercise.

"It's making me sweat just watching you !", I said jokingly, as he finished his workout.

He laughed, and we chatted for a short time. He mentioned that the limb was difficult to get used to. From this, I surmised that injury was recent.

I can only imagine the emotional trauma he must be feeling ! For many, losing a limb is akin to a death sentence. He was able to walk on the artificial one, albeit awkwardly. Who knows if it rendered him unable to perform at whatever job or profession he has. Many people in this situation can sink into a deep depression, mourning the loss of their previous life, forever lamenting what could have been.

This man chose not to.

Even with the few words we exchanged, I saw a fire in him. A zest for life that could not be broken by the removal of his limb. A passion and tenacity that may have wavered, but was never beaten. That passion, I'm sure, is what brought him to the gym, and what kept him on that machine; draining every last reserve of energy, pushing harder and farther until finally his goal was reached.

There is no breaking the human spirit. This, I now know for sure.

"Take care," he said, as he headed off to the free weights.

You too.


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