I felt a twinge in my knee last night and when I woke up this morning, it was still there. I decided to skip my workout to let my knee settle down. The last day of February was a little rough in Chicago - the rain that fell overnight turned to ice when the temperatures dropped around 2 AM. My neighborhood was a huge skating rink. I left the house for my morning commute, moving gingerly and feeling grumpy.
I made it to my local Metra stop and headed up the ice-covered, hazardous stairs. I looked up the stairs and saw a woman really struggling to climb to the top. She was of short stature, and it was clear that she was suffering from some sort of chronic condition - perhaps multiple sclerosis. She had a hard time lifting her feet to climb the stairs, and she was hauling herself up by pulling on the handrail. I offered to help her; she thanked me and asked me to carry her bag. She made it to the top of the stairs, we exchanged a few pleasantries and we headed off to face our futures.
I remembered that I have seen this woman a few times as I scurried to my train. She never caught my attention before. My busy-ness and self-involvement prevented me from truly seeing her. As I rode the train into work this morning, I felt awe and shame.
I was in awe of this woman's persistence. She is working while battling a condition that a non-afflicted person can't really understand. She was pushing through her infirmities to do what needed to be done. I think that she must be one of those exceptional people - a true optimist, who overcomes her challenges with hopefulness. Just an everyday hero, getting on with life.
And then I felt ashamed. I am one of the luckiest people on earth. It is deeply wrong for me not to feel gratitude and thankfulness every waking moment. A twinge in my knee and ice on the sidewalk - trivial matters!! I am not worthy to be the bag-carrier of the woman stuggling to climb the icy stairs. I owe her both an apology and thanks for opening my eyes to see past my own privileged existence.