A couple of months ago at the gym a woman came up to me on the bike next to me and started chatting. She was in her sixties and had a visible physical disability. She introduced herself using the words of a song and we chatted for a while and then parted. The next time we were on the bike, she asked if I remembered her name. She started singing “Hey there, Georgie girl…”, Georgie, that’s right. Every time I see her now, that song comes to mind immediately.
Georgie always has a broad smile and such a lovely presence. People will come up to her all the time in the gym and stop and talk to her and she greets everyone with the same broad smile and genuineness which is so absent from today’s world. The responses by her other gym “friends” are just as genuine as mine, we look forward to seeing her and she makes our hearts happy. Many of them go out of their way to go to her and say hello, often with a gentle squeeze of her shoulder or a hug.
Over the course of the next few months, I learned more about her story and what caused her disability. At 28 with two young children, she had a brain tumour removed. Her right side is visibly restricted in movement and muscle tone. “I dribble a lot,” she said with a wry smile. Her speech is impaired and her sentences are coherent but missing words, much like someone when they are speaking a new language. Her right arm doesn’t seem to be functional without assistance, but she walks with a cane and a pronounced limp. Even when she smiles, her deep brown eyes show the wit and cheekiness of the soul of this gorgeous woman.
When I asked her if I had her permission to write about her in my blog, she shook her head and put her hands in her face in complete embarrassment before she agreed that it would be okay. Sometimes people fake humility, but there is no fakery with Georgie-girl, she is completely and utterly a wonderful human being. It is so refreshing to see and speak with someone who is just themselves and has no qualms or issues or psychological dramas attached to her story. It just is.
How often do we hear people complaining about their lives and their issues? How often do you? I know I have to remember not to keep telling the story over and over again, that just keeps us in the past, attached to the moment, but rather than beat her down, Georgie’s disability is a gift. Despite the story, she continues to be an inspiration to all who speak to her.
This month she is coming up to the anniversary of her 45th wedding anniversary and the 38th anniversary of her tumour and there’s no doubt that her path to recovery has been tough on her and her husband and children. But yet, she has an incredible amount of joy in her life, with her two children and seven grandchildren which bring her an enormous amount of joy, going to the gym to see her friends three or four times a week, sleeping in on Saturday morning, church on Sundays and however else she spends her time. “I love my life,” she exclaims emphatically.
This blog was never meant to be an in-depth analysis of Georgie’s life, but of the impact that she has had on my life. Without meaning to, Georgie has made me realise the impact that being fully myself can have on other people and how very contagious that joy is. With her joy and gratitude with her life and the life that she has been dealt, she continues to face up to it with a smile on her face and perspective about her abilities and her limits, “every six months I fall over,” she says, but she is very aware that her situation could be much worse. She has a lot to be grateful for and while she doesn’t say that, it shows in her being.
Before I left her today, as always, I told her what an inspiration she is and how special she is, her humility is such that I don’t think she believes me, so I’m going to keep telling her! I also don’t know if she ever hears it from others, but today as I hugged her she said “I love you,” and for that, and for being a teacher for me, I am truly grateful. 'I love you' often has this stigma attached to it, as if someone might sit on you forever and not let you go, but we need to say I love you more often and mean it. We need to say “I love those flowers” and feel the love that we have for the flowers, or your car, or your kids, or your friends or partners or parents. Practice on the flowers if those other things are hard! But it needs to be said. A genuine “I love you” does not hurt and in reality, you are not responsible for the other person’s reaction, they are. But being honest from your heart brings you closer to yourself and your divinity.
So, to finish with a cliché; every relationship has a reason or a season, but perhaps this is bigger than that cliché. Perhaps every interaction we have with another living being has an impact. Whether you know it, a smile, or a frown or a disapproving gesture has an impact on your fellow travellers on this journey of life. Make it your job to not make someone else happy, because that is their job, but to bring the joy of who you are into your everyday, you just don’t know what an impact it might make on another.