Sometimes, they say, “the happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they make the most of everything that comes their way.”
I was blessed with the opportunity to renew my belief in the wisdom of that quote today when I saw a woman, early thirties I would assume, roll into the pool area with an aura of quiet yet distinct confidence. She positioned herself next to the adapted wheelchair ramp and lowered herself into the pool. Her movements were agile yet filled with grace and from within the water, she bore no resemblance to someone with what they call a “disability”. Clearly that term did not apply to her; sure, she was differently abled but not disabled.
Every time she rose to the surface and our eyes met, she smiled and after completing more laps than I could count, she got out and rolled over to where our family was. Using her index finger, she signaled me to come over and in my mind, I concocted a million reasons why she was calling me over but as I approached, she said “thank you”. She then explained that she has a friend who wears the head scarf and she loves swimming but is embarrassed to come to the pool; further, she told me how happy she was to see our family out especially with the stigma surrounding Muslims. Clutching her hands together and placing them firmly over her heart, she again repeated “thank you, I’m so glad I saw you here today” and in that brief moment I felt like we had an inexplicable bond: the Hawaiian lady with matted blond hair and me, the random Muslim lady hailing from a small South American country. I guess we both started our lives in a tropical place, albeit very different and ended up in the same city in Georgia.
Conversation ensued and she told me she was paralyzed from the waist down but constantly worked out, her great physique a testament to that. She said swimming in the ocean was natural, something she adapted to even though her legs have never worked and although she misses it deeply, the pool helps to fill that void and piece of her life she left behind. She was born with the immeasurable gift of perspective.
This seemingly incredibly happy woman missing what we consider crucial and essential functionality to conduct our daily lives helped quell any preconceived notions I may have had about the things necessary to enjoy a certain quality of life. For surely, there’s an infinite combination of characteristics and attitudes that embody quality.