A Supportive Friend Can Come From An Unexpected Source

Friendship has a way of finding you when you least expect it. Sometimes you’re unaware that you even need it, but once that supportive friend is part of your life, you know you have someone you can count on.

A little over a year ago, I joined a local gym. I didn’t sign up to make friends, but since I’m a sociable person, it was likely to happen. My primary reason for the membership, though, was to attend a triweekly aquatic exercise class sponsored by the Arthritis Foundation. The slow stretches in the water improve joint mobility and balance. For me, it also reduces my chronic inflammation, a symptom of my rheumatoid arthritis.

Sporting my favorite floral bathing suit, I entered the pool area and joined the class. The instructor welcomed me and asked me to fill out some preliminary paperwork. During the class, she explained each movement and which joint it would benefit. I felt at ease.

As I looked around, I noticed that some of the ladies appeared confused. I was the youngest one in the water by a good 30 years. By the end of class, a few of the ladies worked up the courage to say hello and ask if I was in the wrong class.

Over the next few weeks, I told my story over and over again: “I have arthritis, just like you. Anyone at any age can get it.” Their questioning gradually turned into, “How are you?” or “It’s nice to see you back again.” They no longer cared that I was much younger and understood that I also battled a form of arthritis. I had become one of the girls.

As the months went on, we shared holiday recipes, talked about television shows and even enjoyed poolside birthday snacks together. One lady, a former Russian ballet dancer, has started to teach me a bit of her native language. We greet one another before each class with a Russian phrase. Another lady and I have teamed up to practice our diving skills and underwater handstands. We’ve even gone on a road trip together.

A few months ago, I had to undergo an unexpected, last-minute surgery. During the healing process, I couldn’t get my incision wet, especially in a public swimming pool, so I wasn’t able to go the class for several weeks.

Spending lunch breaks at home on the couch rather than in the pool was horrible. My body was achy, and I was lonely. I didn’t realize just how much I looked forward to spending time in the pool with a group of women closer to my mother’s age than my own.

As soon as I returned to class, they wondered where I had been and what happened. Many shared words of encouragement and wished me well in the healing process.

I never thought that I would gain even a single supportive friend from such a group of people, but I didn’t make just one new friend — I made several.

Image source: Flickr