I felt like what I imagine an atheist approaching church doors would feel.
A block before my destination, I seriously considered walking a different direction. It was like voluntarily time-shifting back to grade eight recess intramurals. That torturous twenty minutes, three times a day, in the school gym, "playing" volleyball while the boy I have a crush on sits on the sidelines watching my utter failure, my inability to understand how to change positions, volley, serve, set, or in any way coordinate my upper body to my lower body; my right side to my left.
Oh. The humiliation.
I thought about changing my mind to "I'm just going for a walk, I'm not going anywhere in particular". But sometimes walking through the anxiety, recognizing it, and then choosing to continue with the agenda, is the right thing to do. There's a fear that leads to stretching in positive ways, and its a different fear than the one that warns you that you have a choice to say "NO" and that you ought to.
So, I walked on. Through the door that I knew in my most fattiest parts was the very door that fit, athletic, gym type people walked through on their way to lifting 50 million pound barbells while they stood on their heads and leapt vertically over barriers strewn across that foreign floor.
The walls were lined with athletic wear with actual people inside of them, fully capable of doing athletic types of things. These were not the yoga pants of Wal-Mart that nary a Namaste would meet.
I felt as familiar and comfortable as I might at a country line dance.
Or at a weiner roast in the kill room of a meat packing plant.
Or a fun and friendly day of hunting possom in the hills of Kentucky.
Which is to say that it was a case of "One of these things is not like the other".
My body betrays me sometimes, and people accuse me of looking "Like an athletic type- a volleyball player, or a runner"-- neither of which could be further from the truth. I'm an arty farty seamstress/hippy wannabe. My left side has never been properly introduced to my right. If moccassins came in two left sizes, I'd be putting in special orders.
And here I was. In a gym. It was a post on Facebook that brought me here- a post that resonated with some of what had made my heart ache and rage.
"If anyone in the community would like to come cheer us on as we participate in a memorial workout to children affected by terrorism/conflict please swing by tonight."
The website provided more incentive: "Today we will be participating as a community in one group workout at 6:30 pm. We will be doing the workout "MARTIN" named after the 8 year old boy who was killed Monday in Boston. We will not only be doing this workout in his memory, but in memory of ALL the children around the world who have lost their lives due to terrorism, conflict, and war.
Please bring your families out to cheer along the run route. If you can't workout, just come to cheer and if you've never been to ShopGym, still come out and cheer. There will be community time after the workout where we can just hang out."
Well, I know how to cheer. (although I tend to do so silently, with arms at my sides straight and still as a soldier's) And I needed something to stand up for. So, I made my way to Shopgym, even though I felt hives creeping up my cellulite as I walked up the two block route.
The welcome I received was genuine, surprising, and completely outside of any gym construct I have stored in my extensive mental archives. (Of course, they've never seen me not play volleyball, so they may have less evidence by which to hate me). There were hugs, warm welcomes, kind affirmations. Then there was a short speech, honouring children and innocents who have been affected by violence around the world, regardless of race, nationality or religion.
It was like being in church, except shorter, and without the awkward methodical drums and rocker wanna-bes coiffed behind echoing microphones.
The workout began with an eighty meter run, outdoors in the frigid non-spring of Manitoba.
I stood out in the freezing wind, watching people run. I noted the different styles of running- the ones who looked like they'd been born running with gazelles on the Mount of Kilamonjero, and those who ran slow and methodical. I stood, thinking of this boy named Martin, and about goodness, and grace, and perserverence. The children in my peripheral vision were a tiny piece if the innocents around the world, bouncing around, doing regular kid things, sometimes remembering to cheer for the runners.
Tears went dripping off my face as some of my mad made way for the sad. I am moved when people celebrate their passions in the name of justice, equality, and compassion. I am further moved when we can come together regardless of our gifts and talents. When we come together not only for Martin, but for children in Congo, North Korea, Afghanistan, China, Iran and we stand collectively to say: "PEACE! Please, in the name of all things righteous and Holy, give Peace a chance!" Even knowing that none of these bombers and governments, people in camo gear, the gun advocates, and the weirdos googling "How to make a bomb out of a pressure cooker" will ever really hear our voices or see the run.
Somehow its grace and goodness to stand out in the freezing Manitoba wind and say- "NO"! Somehow its hopeful to meet with people who can stand on their arms, leap up onto platforms in a single bound, run like the wind, or deadlift pianos.
I don't belong with them, and yet we belong together. I don't share their skills but I share in their heart, their intention, their cries for mercy. I'm not comfortable in their environment but I celebrate it nonetheless.
So, let's use our voices, no matter how mute and ineffective they may be. Let's show grace to people utterly unlike ourselves. Lets encourage each other to move towards less fear, less intimidation, and less silent resignation.
And in that teeny tiny prototype, I can only wish for those reverberations around the world.