It was a small news story on television, reporting on a once-champion marathon runner who had spent the early part of his life in a wash of athletic glory. His body was a flawless instrument, and that instrument, combined with his fierce will, enabled him to run long grueling distances at world class speeds. He loved running, he loved winning, he loved living.
Until the car crash.
It was a freak accident, and it left his spinal cord so damaged he could barely walk, and deleted a running career from his horizon forever. He entered, he said, a period of depression that was miles deep and apparently incurable; joy had become a distant and unreachable planet. Wherever he looked, he saw darkness.
As part of his physical therapy, he was encouraged to do swimming exercises, and at some point a therapist introduced him to scuba diving. The minute he slipped into the zero gravity of deep waters, the disabled athlete sensed a new door had opened in his life. Zero gravity! In this field he could leap, stretch, plunge, move and tumble without the barrier of weight and a corrupted spine.
Ecstatic over the world of deep waters, this man's will to live returned with hurricane force. And once he had mastered diving, he knew what he wanted to do: teach other imprisoned beings to experience the same freedom
He began a series of diving classes for disabled people at a local municipal pool. One by one, they came to learn, and one by one, he carefully introduced his students to the thrill of weightless movement underwater. Today, his students have a new skill, new confidence, and the joy of experiencing movement without crutches and wheelchairs attached to their bodies. Some have become his assistants, and are now helping him teach even more damaged bodies how to soar underwater.
The students themselves have just one response to this new life skill: pure happiness.
Watching the exquisite care with which this ex-runner approaches each beginning student, a reporter commented on the remarkable patience and tenderness he employs in his teaching.
"Oh, I get so much back from these students!" he said. "I get far more back from them than I ever give."
And you can tell he means it. As he moves around, his whole body is a smile.
His legs can't run anymore; that's done. But he has something better. The accident has given him a fresh new life; this one has a purpose so lit with giving and elation that, for him, getting up in the morning can't happen early enough. His spirit is running like a gazelle.
And he wouldn't change his life for anything.