On New Year’s Eve I was struggling.
I was standing in the middle of the gym floor at the Morgan Family YMCA, trying to pull my thoughts and words together in order to record a video I had promised our Marketing Department as part of a social media takeover project.
The facility had closed an hour earlier. I had thought I’d be alone in the building, but a custodial crew was there giving the building a thorough once-over to ensure everything was ready for New Year’s Day.
I would gather my thoughts, lift my phone, press record on the camera and begin to speak, only to have a vacuum cleaner start running or trash cans get knocked around in the background.
After 4 or 5 attempts I was getting pretty frustrated. The words that I’d had in my head earlier in the day got all jumbled up. When I recorded I found myself getting tongue-tied. I’ve deleted the clips to save space on my phone, but I could have put together a full 5-minute blooper reel.
I decided to move to the track on the 2nd floor that runs around the gym, thinking a new perspective might clear my head.
The custodians had finished and I finally had a quiet building to myself.
But I still struggled.
I couldn’t seem to pull together a clear and concise story to tell, especially within the constraints of a 60 second video.
I struggled because when I’m in that facility I’m overwhelmed by all the stories and memories I’ve accumulated in my 20 years of being part of this organization.
When I stand on that gym floor I think of the office down the hall where a wonderful woman used to work – a woman who pestered me for a week to ask out the girl who would ultimately become my wife.
I look at the offices next to that gym and think of all the great staff I’ve met over the years. I think of all the times I’ve laughed in one office, in particular, as I attempted to have a conversation with someone as basketballs bounced off the windows and the ceiling shook from the runners thundering down the track that runs above it.
I look at one of the basketball hoops and remember my mother, who passed away 11 years ago, holding my then 2-year old son up to the hoop so he could tip in a ball and the smiles and laughter as she chased him around the court.
I think of the hundreds of hours I spent running up and down that floor with 30 or more other people during a group fitness class.
I think about relationships.
What makes the YMCA special to me isn’t that it has the latest, greatest exercise equipment. It’s not the pools or the racquetball courts or the weight rooms. It’s not the promise that maybe, finally, this year I’ll shed the 25 pounds that I’ve gained since an injury prevented me from running.
What makes the YMCA special to me is the relationships I’ve built and that I’ve seen flourish in others just by being present there.
January rolls into the Y with a promise of hope, a burst of optimism, the inspiration that comes with a new year and new goals. A slimmer, stronger, sleeker self seems just a few short months away.
Some years I’m successful with that process. Some years I’m not.
But what I’ve come to learn is that there is a magic that happens while we struggle to get to our goals. In the tension between Now and Not Yet, relationships form and grow as we share our journey with others.
I became a father when my sons were born in the hospital downtown, but I became a daddy as I held them in the pool as they learned to bob and kick and trust themselves in the water.
I became a husband when we had a ceremony at a church nearby, but I became my wife’s partner, her friend and her lifelong companion as we navigated our way through swimming lessons with the kids, youth programs, fundraising campaigns and thousands of hours of other YMCA events and programs. The Y is completely woven into our family history.
I became an employee when I filled out an application and had a successful interview, but I became an evangelist when I began to see the positive impact this organization has on hundreds of thousands of lives in our community.
I became a donor when someone asked me if I’d participate in the annual fundraising campaign, but I became a champion when I began to see the magnitude of the Y’s life-changing impact.
I gained coworkers when people took new jobs in our office, but I gained great, close friends as we hauled our sweaty selves up and down the hill outside.
All along my journey through these moments I’ve seen the same magic weave through those around me. Friendships. Marriages. Growth. Joy. Successes. Disappointment and Encouragement and Support.
If you’re new to the Y or thinking about joining, I’d love to welcome you in to share your story and be part of our story.
If you’ve been around the Y for a long time and already feel that connection, I invite you to pull your earbuds out and listen to all the new stories that are coming in our doors.
You’re welcome here.