I just got off the phone with my Mom who is celebrating her 84th birthday. She is my hero, enjoying life to the fullest and kind-hearted to others. Mom was back from the gym, where she still works out five mornings a week, and preparing a hot lunch in-between phone calls from family and friends wishing her a happy birthday.
Mom told me how delighted she was to receive a beautiful exotic plant this morning from a Chinese lady at the gym. The plant, an anthurium with its dark green heavy leaves and red heart-shaped flowers, was a fitting match to the heart-centered woman who is my Mom. I asked her how she came to meet the Chinese lady.
Mom met her a few years ago when the lady came to the community fitness center where both my parents work out. Mom saw her walk over to the treadmill, push a few buttons, step off, wander around the exercise equipment with a perplexed look on her face and then head for the exit door. Mom bolted after her, stopped her at the door and asked “Shall I explain the machines to you?”
The Chinese lady didn’t speak much English and my Mom has a thick Dutch accent and is hard of hearing, but somehow with gestures and pointing, Mom coaxed her back into the fitness room. Mom introduced her to the other regulars in the club and eventually they found out her name was Lily. Lily was almost 70 years old, slim like a model and in good shape for her age. Mom showed her how to operate the treadmill and how to change the weights on weight lifting equipment. Lily was a quick learner. When it came time for the core exercise class, Mom encouraged Lily to join her. I still get teary-eyed when I think about my 80 year old Mom showing her 70 year old friend how to use the exercise equipment.
Mom and Lily still look for each other every morning, share smiles, a hello and encouragement. Sometimes if a translation is needed, they ask another Chinese member of the club to help out. Lily has become a good friend. She came to the hospital when my Mom was sick. She remembers Mom on every birthday with a gift.
I was touched by Mom’s story about how one person can make a difference. Who knows what would have happened if Lily had just gone home that day she first came to the gym. Dejected perhaps at the enormity of having to figure out all those machines in a strange room in a foreign country surrounded by strangers, mostly young jocks. But it didn’t happen that way because my Mom stepped up to help. And while Lily still doesn’t speak much English, she thanks my Mom to this day. When you speak the language of the heart there are no barriers.
Happy Birthday Mom!