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The Locker Room, Unlocked

Lynn had attended the fitness center for some time, and she knew the director relatively well. He was a friendly person, with a powerful athletic build, and had been nick named “Arnold” by one of her fitness class members. So when “Arnold” walked through the door armed with a Miracle Bar (crow bar) , Lynn began to feel that everything was going to be all right.

One would expect that the combination of Arnold and the fabled Miracle Bar would have the locker opened in minutes, if not seconds. It did not – the bolt on the sheet metal door proved to be incredibly resistant. Everyone was amazed, and pausing to reflect and take a breath, one of the onlookers casually started to open and check the other lockers at the end of the row.

It was the attendant, her loud gasp caused everyone to turn and look. There were Lynn’s clothes, her jacket and her towel in a locker where Lynn had put them. It was too embarrassing for words; it was mortifying. If anyone commented, it was forgotten, as everyone was both relieved and eager to collect their belongings in order to get home to watch the Super Bowl, which had already began.

Lynn changed clothes quickly, and as she was going to her car, Arnold pulled up, lowered his window to say . . . .Lynn braced herself, as she could not imagine how angry this man must be after being called in from home on a dark, snowy Sunday evening (the night of the Super Bowl no less) for a non-existent emergency.

What he said could not have surprised her more – “You know, Lynn, I’m sorry you had to go through all that.” He was completely sincere.

Being confronted with such compassion was totally humbling. Even if he had expressed his anger, Lynn could not have been made to feel worse than she already did. But to find kindness in a situation where she could not even feel sorry for herself was truly extraordinary.

This is where I come into the story because I had to find out about that word -- “gratitude.” Few words express such depth of feeling, and it is not a word with obvious roots. It could be French or Latin, even. As it turns out, “grate” at one time was an adjective on its own, deriving, as expected, from the Latin, “gratus,” meaning “pleasing.” Thus we have not only gratitude, grateful, and even gracious. Gratitude is a beautiful word, and it is lasting.

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