Here's a pic of Ben (with brother Kenold) just after his first personal-training session at the club last night. As you remember, I wanted to sign Ben up at our club because his physiotherapy has ended and he really needs exercise. But, I was filled with angst about whether the club would be welcoming to a person with disabilities and whether Ben could even use the equipment because of his tiny stature.
Things in general went great last night. Ben's trainer is called Michael, and he's a very upbeat, positive, accepting person. The evening began with the monstrous stair climb from the lobby to the exercise floor. Michael felt this would be part of Ben's workout. And as Ben climbed one set of stairs, only to turn the corner to another, and another, a young man stopped and squatted down to cheer him on. "I hate these stairs too!" he said.
As Ben limped onto the exercise floor (we still don't have a lift for his shoe) and took in the flurry of bodies twice the size of his in a whir of movement on treadmills, bikes and elliptical machines, I felt a surge of pride. This kid has guts to keep going and keep trying despite the obstacles against him.
Michael took Ben for a walk around the whole gym -- as we're trying to build his walking endurance but he also wanted to show Ben everything. Then Ben did three minutes on the treadmill (Michael wants to start him slow). He got him doing repetitions on a cable machine (pulling his outstretched arms which were holding the handles back to his sides). Then he adjusted a weight machine for the arms and took some of the weight himself so Ben could do it. Finally, he had him do steps and stretching.
Everyone wants him to do well, I thought, as I sat on a bike, looking around. While there are elite athletes here, there are also people of all shapes and sizes, some of whom are just starting out. Everyone remembers what it's like at the beginning, I thought, when the shortest cardio session or lightest weights leave you breathless. Everyone is rooting for him, and he'll feel it.
As we climbed down all those stairs, people stopped to say hello or offer an encouraging word. Michael presented Ben with his new fitness bag.
Then Ben and D'Arcy showered and sat in the whirpool.
"I thought people were very welcoming," I said later.
"I don't think they really knew what to make of us," D'Arcy said, referring to Ben's appearance as a much younger child.
But it doesn't matter, I thought.
I'm sure there will be bumps, but Ben got to feel successful at working out. He broke a sweat, took a swig of a water bottle, and heard Michael praise and encourage him. He was ecstatic after his workout, no doubt because it got his endorphins going.
Later I was reading Buddhist nun Pema Chodron and she talked about this slogan from a Tibetan text: 'Be grateful to everyone.'
It's "about making peace with the aspects of ourselves that we have rejected," she said. "The people who repel us unwittingly show us the aspects of ourselves that we find unacceptable, which otherwise we can't see."
She talked about a meditation student she worked with who was making great strides recovering from a drug addiction, then went on a binge. When she expressed disappointment to her spiritual teacher, he got angry. "You should never have expectations for other people," he told her. "... Setting goals for others can be aggressive -- really wanting a success story for ourselves. When we do this to others, we are asking them to live up to our ideals. Instead, we should just be kind."
That really hit home in terms of parenting a child with disabilities. 'Just be kind' sounds like a great starting point -- for the way we interact with and support our children, and the way we treat ourselves as parents, without judgment. Maybe it's my own struggle with success, I thought, that makes it hard for me to accept the unconventional path Ben is on. Maybe that's something I need to look at more closely.
I got goosebumps watching this video tribute to Zack Hamilton: Paul's video tribute to Zack. Louise