We both entered the gym at the same time. My walk was somewhat strong and though I was not feeling a hundred percent I was committed to exercising none the less. An hour a day keeps the Dr. away right? The other mans walk was profoundly different than mine. He drug his left leg which stayed to the side a little too long and his spine was hunched over 1/4 of the way. And he smelled funny. Real funny. A little like gasoline mixed with fertilizer but I knew my nose wasn’t completely telling me the truth. What I smelled offended me. In fact when I saw there was only one treadmill left and that it was next to him I have to admit my face grimaced. How in the world could I handle one hour of being next to such a smell? I needed the exercise so I pulled into the treadmill like a car at the starting line. And as I inserted my ear buds I made the effort to breathe through my nose, hoping to inhale as little as possible of this gray haired, bent over man.
As I warmed up, I noticed his skin color wasn’t real good, slightly yellow and waxy looking. His sweats and shirt were thick with a pair of gym shorts peeking through the sides of his pants. And that’s when I got another whiff of this elderly man. At that moment I understood what the smell was. At that moment I knew why he had on so many clothes and why his skin was the color it was.
You see the man next to me smelled like this because he had a colostomy bag. He smelled like his bowels because his bowels were on the outside, carefully concealed. I recognized this smell because someone very dear to me also wore one of these unattractive necessities for while. You just simply cannot rid yourself of that foul smell. No amount of cologne can cover the stench.
In that moment, I no longer held my breath but held this man up in prayer. Mercy came upon me and I was sharply reminded, once again, that everyone is going through something, at any given moment. I found myself wondering how long he was in the hospital for, if he had a wife or any kids that visited him on Christmas.
Suddenly, the young pretty ponytailed girl left the treadmill to my right only for her size 6 clone to jump right on. This young woman smelled of brown sugar, cinnamon and spice when I am struck with this truth. Here I am in the middle of these two extremes of life which prompts me to ask myself, what do I smell like? I want to say I smell like somewhere in the middle, because at this point in my workout I am sweating and know I am far from that of a rose. I find myself talking to God my Father once again with the prayer I find myself asking more and more these days, ” Please God don’t let me deceived. Don’t let me think I smell better than I do. Help me be honest in my assessment of who I am. Please burn my pride. It stinks most of all. Please make me look like you and smell like you; for you smell best of all.”
Today at the gym I learned everyone has a smell; including me. I pray my quick, judgmental tendencies don’t follow me any longer. I pray that I would smell like compassion, mercy and love.
I was honored to workout next to such a precious man of strength and dignity today. Maybe one day, someone will say the same about me.Oh yeah. I smell.