“How much ya bench?”

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When I was back in high school, what now seems like a million years ago, my high school offered a couple of different options for the required physical education courses.

The “gym” class was always the great equalizer among the freaks and geeks, the jocks and the needs and very one in between. There was no “honors” gym, as the adjective itself seemed in complete contrast to the spirit of the affair. Going to Staten Island’s largest high school (my graduating class was 303, I was 27th), gave a big mix to this melting pot of people you’d end up with in gym class.

And, given the NYC Board of Educations continual budget crises, gym activities were simple in scope. Basketball. Softball in the summer. Touch football. Soccer. The equipment provided was barebones. Usually a ball. Maybe some cones. But, the most interesting were the people. The superseniors. The superduperseniors (I remember one kid in my junior gym class was 21, and a peer). The kids who had pledged themselves to ROTC and to fight for America. Having been in “gifted” classes for basically my entire education, these tended not to be the people I saw often. Whereas, getting a B or a C in a class, or getting just a 3 on an AP exam was a big deal to “us”, “life” was just more difficult for them. And at the time, I had barely an understanding of what “life” really was – I was by no means “rich”, but my parents had never made me want for anything either. At the same time, I was really lucky to be the first in my family to graduate college.

But what I think about now is these people, and how the gym class created these unlikely friendships, playing on the same pick up teams day after day. Over gym. I wonder what’s become of them. I wonder if they ever think of me. And I wonder if the hand life dealt them ever got better. And I am again thankful for who I am, and what I’ve been allowed to be. And I realize, as I only begun to understand then, that I wasn’t “better” than them. That there’s no way to know how I would have gotten through “life” – in real terms.

And then, I again believe in the power of people. That “life” is the great equalizer, that the “melting pot” had taught me more than I realized at the time.

Just a thought.