I overheard a conversation a few days ago. It was very revealing, but it wasn’t between two family members or friends. No, it was between two men waiting for prescriptions at the pharmacy. I was waiting, too, and couldn’t help but overhear – and marvel at how open these two complete strangers were with one another. Their conversation even touched me, although I didn’t participate in it. And, it’s left me wondering, is it sometimes easier to have a frank conversation about health issues with someone you don’t know, versus someone you know well?
The conversation started when the one man, with two arm braces and a braced knee, sat down, heavily, in one of the last chairs in the pharmacy waiting area. He happened to sit next to another man, who asked if that particular chair was okay, or if he (the knee-brace-wearing man) would be more comfortable in his (the other man).
The knee-brace wearing man said that it really didn’t matter. He was on his third knee surgery, and was used to waiting. And, he said he was in horrible, horrible pain.
The other man commiserated, and asked if the surgeries were due to athletics.
Yes, said the knee-brace-wearing man. And, he proceeded to list all of the athletic activities he’d done throughout his life. Believe me, it made me exhausted to hear it! Soccer, football, triathalon training, long-distance running, martial arts…and more!
The other man listened and then said that he, too had been an avid runner. But one day, a conversation with an older, fellow runner, made him “dial it back.” He said that the older runner looked “great, fit, amazing” from the waist up, but from the waist down, the man could barely move. He had pushed his body much farther than he should through all of his running and other athletics, and wanted to warn the other, younger, man, that he should “dial it back,” so he didn’t end up nearly crippled from over-doing.
The knee-brace-wearing man said that he knew he should dial it back. He knew he was doing damage to his body.
“But, if you’re so used to the athletics, how do you do without them? What do you do without them?” And then, his voice cracked. “I mean, I have grandchildren now that I can’t do sports with because of this, but how do you stop?”
The other man said, “It was hard for me, too. But you should have seen that old runner. I knew I had to dial it back.”
“Yeah,” said the knee-brace-wearing man. “I should dial it back, too.”
There are so many things about the conversation I could talk about here. The need to acknowledge our body’s limits, the importance of respect for preserving movement, the need to work with out doctors to know what we should and should not be doing.
But, that first question I posed was really the most prominent in my mind as I collected my prescriptions and went on my way.
What is it about strangers that we find so compelling?
And, if it is easier to open up to them, what does this mean for our ability to witness to goodness, health, and faith – no matter where we might be?
Blessings for the day,