My gym buddy Zeke is challenged by what we take for granted. Speech, thought processes, physical movement and social acceptance aren’t so easy for Zeke. He’s stuck in a place far younger than his age.
I’m not sure how we became buddies. One day on a stationary bike or a trip around the track, I must have said “hi.” A good chance is he said “hi” first – he’s a friendly sort. However we ended up being buddies, I’m the better off for it.
God tends to put me in positions that are teaching moments. I just follow His lead. After all, His plan is the path I’m on anyway. Zeke is part of the journey and, while I’m at this point in life, I’m going to drink it in.
Zeke mentioned that he loves fire trucks and ambulances. What luck! My son is a fireman/paramedic, so I told Zeke as much. I didn’t say anything else for the rest of our conversation. He lit up with joy and told me all he knew about each. He was able to explain to me the difference between Ford and Chevy ambulances. When he was done, I knew things I never would have otherwise.
The next time I saw Zeke, I gave him a fireman blue t-shirt with fire logos on the sleeve and chest. It’s what happened next that has me writing this blog. The gratitude expressed from Zeke was like turning on a fire hose. It was genuine and caring. It was the most grateful I’ve seen anyone in years. The gratitude far exceeded the gift. Now I know what “giving is better than receiving” really means.
In the middle of that gym, Zeke gave me an impromptu bear hug and pronounced that I was a good friend. I soaked it in. It wasn’t weird – it was fabulous! He thanked me multiple times and proceeded to make his way from station to station showing everyone his new shirt. His smile was infectious, and people of all ages doing all types of workouts were taking just a moment to smile back.
I happen to think that gratitude has been on a slow decline forever. It started when kids began getting everything they wanted. As parents, we want our child’s life to be better than ours. So we give, give, give and give some more until our giving becomes a subconscious, Pavlov’s-dog type thing and, as a result, the recipient’s gratitude takes a back seat to expectation. UGH!
It’s hard to get genuine, unabated gratitude. Zeke can teach us something. He’s a master at being grateful.
Oh yeah, one more thing. As Zeke readied to leave the gym that day, he sought me out to tell me he was taking off and thanked me again for the shirt. As he started to walk away, he stopped and came back. He asked me if he should write me a thank you card. I told him “no – you have been more than gracious.” He walked a few steps away, stopped and sort of clumsily turned around. As he looked back at me he said, “I’ll probably write you a thank you card.” Of course you will, Zeke. Of course you will.