I go to the downtown YMCA at around the same time most days, so I see many of the same people working out — we are all creatures of habit. I’ve written before about two brothers, both probably retired, who walk the track around the exercise floor. It’s 19 laps to the mile, so it’s a small track. But anything can be a daunting challenge to someone who appears to have had a neurological event, maybe a stroke. One brother, who actually looks like the younger, is slow-walking and drags one leg. No matter. The two walk the track, step by step in tandem, talking quietly. They have the same nose, the same facial features, the same lean body frame. They could be twins, but I don’t think they are.
They weren’t there for awhile, and now they are back. I wonder if the impaired brother has had a new medical event. He looks weaker, his muscles more wasted. His gait is far more unsteady. I haven’t seen them yet attempt even one circuit around the track. I have seen the healthier one holding his brother gently on either side of his waist as the now-frail man attempted to balance on a Bosun ball. Yesterday, the more stable one was helping his brother stretch his calf muscles. Then they sat, perhaps to rest.
Most of us are capable of single acts of kindness. We’d stop, for example, if someone fell in front of us — help the person up, help gather his or her scattered possessions. We’d bring a meal or do a grocery run for a neighbor who is sick. If you have the skills, you might stop to help someone change a flat tire, or at least lend your cell phone for a call to AAA. All the more would we act kindly toward a sibling.
But what I see between these brothers is sustained kindness over a very long period, and real love. It inspires me, and makes me more hopeful about the essential decency of people.