I first saw the man last year in my gym. He had a striking presence. He was a huge black man, wearing combat boots, and gym shorts. He had big arms hanging out of a sleeveless, cut-off sweatshirt. He also had a black nylon "do-rag" on his head, to keep the sweat out of his eyes. It was the crack of dawn, and we pretty much shared the huge weight room together. We made limited eye contact, and pretty much ignored each other. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him doing dumbbell bench-presses with 100 lbs., in each of his huge hands. He had to be 6' 2" tall, and weigh in the neighborhood of about 265 lbs. I guessed his age at somewhere in his mid 50's, maybe a little younger. He was SCARY! He was a mean looking man. I felt uncomfortable around him.
Our paths crossed every morning for three or four days. I respected how hard he worked those weights. Finally, I summoned up the courage to smile at him, and say hello. I figured the worst he could do, would be to ignore me. To my surprise, he smiled wide and put out one of those big mitts, with the leather weight-lifting glove on it, for me to shake. My hand disappeared in his, and a friendship began which I value to this very day.
He told me he was a retired Navy man. He used to box at Chicago's Windy City Gym, in the days of Muhammad Ali. Tyrone was a personal-fitness trainer now. He made a few bucks doing this, to go along with his pension money from the military. Tyrone taught me how to train, and what to take to ease my sore, old muscles. He gave me an analgesic, which he picked up from Hines Hospital, which really helped ease my sore, arthritic shoulders. He taught me to do a good soak in the hot tub, before I started lifting. This warmed everything up, before I started my routine. Tyrone and I worked between 4 and 5 hours in the gym, together every day. We cheered each other on to heavier weights and more repetitions. We trained together for a long time...almost a year.
One day I took him to lunch, then back to my house to show him my art studio. I introduced him to my wife, Debbie, and she loved him as much as I did right from the start. She called him a big "Teddy Bear", and that's what he was. He is one of the nicest guys I have ever met in my life. He is always there for me when I need him. Tyrone, is one of God's miracles in my life. He is my brother. I didn't see him for a couple of months, because I had some surgeries done. He was out in Las Vegas, helping his elderly mom, settle into a retirement home.
He came up to me in the gym about a month ago, while I was doing my aerobic workout on a treadmill. We both smiled, and hugged. We filled each other up with information about what we had been up to during the interim where we hadn't seen each other. All was good once again. I told Tyrone, "Go sneak up and put your arms around Debbie, she's sitting at the computer table!" "I want to see her reaction when she sees your smiling face."
So, Tyrone giggles as he goes off to freak out my wife. He puts his big, black arms around her little shoulders, and she grabs him and kisses him on the cheek. I walk over toweling off, and the three of us talk about everything under the sun. We parted, all of us joyful, feeling a lot of good will. The rest of my day was wonderful, because I was glad my good friend was back in town. Tyrone still laughs when I tell him about my fear, when I first saw him in the gym. Tyrone said, "Rich, we are all God's creatures." "He put you and me together, because of His infinite wisdom." "There is no reason to be afraid of me, my brother." AMEN