Monday, February 15, 2016

Daily Heroes: Meet Josh

Good Day World!

I'm putting together a collection of essays on what I call daily heroes.

They're the kind of people who face massive challenges every day bravely and creatively.

These Daily Heroes I'm introducing you to haven't made the news anywhere. There's no viral videos of any of them. They're just average Americans I've had the honor of meeting and knowing.
Meet Josh

The YMCA's gym was eerily quiet at 8:30 a.m. with the exception of a basketball being dribbled on the wooden floor. Soon another sound became apparent.

The sound of a wheelchair screeching to a sudden halt...followed by the unmistakable sound of a basketball swishing through the net.

Pleased with his shot Josh pumped his one good arm up and down. The stump on the other side steadied him as he rose up slightly.

The young African-American man was strapped in at the waist because he had no legs. It didn't seem to bother him as he raced his specially designed wheelchair towards the hoop.

 A smooth layup without pausing. Just another day playing hoops. I stopped shooting baskets on the other side of the gym to watch him.

We were the only people there. I saw that he had ear buds in and was grooving to some kind of music while shooting and chasing the ball.

I always considered myself "Basketball Jones." My happiest memories have always been about playing basketball on teams, pick-up games, and just shooting the ball by myself. 

At 65-years old, I'm no longer in basketball shape. I can't jump thanks to back surgery and bad knees. I get gassed easy. But I was thankful that I found a place where I could go and still play some hoops.

After watching an obviously happy Josh, I know we were soul brothers-in-basketball. As we both left the gym so a Zumba Class could take over, I introduced myself to him.

The next day Josh arrived at the gym before me and was already speeding down the court in his competition wheelchair when I got there at 8 a.m. 

I slowly stretched while watching him make 18-foot shots with one arm.

He was poetry in motion, manipulating the ball like a member of the Harlem Globe Trotters. He didn't have a particulary big hand, but it must have been strong as he held the ball like a grapefruit.

By the time I joined him he had a nice bead of sweat despite wearing a head band to absorb it. We greeted one another.

"Good to see you," I said.

"Good to see you too, sir," he replied.

"Let go of the "sir," Josh. Call me Dave. Now that we have that right what's your favorite shot?"

His smile was so big I had to smile back. 

"All of them! From all over the court!" he said with conviction.

"Wow! You're absolutly right! Can't have a favorite shot or everyone will know it and guard you better. Let's play HORSE.

That hour of basketball and conversation went by too quickly. Our conversations were short and honest. I asked him if he was a veteran and he said no.

I quickly assured him that I didn't need to know what happened; why he only had one good arm and no legs. The moment passed and he hit a pretty shot from about 15-feet out from the left corner.

I had to to make the shot, or I would have all the letters and be a HORSE. In a semi-serious tone I acted like I was the announcer in a big game, "And the crowd roared as he released the ball with one second to go!"

And he missed it!
Josh hooted happily and held his hand out to receive my high five. I promised I'd get him in the next game.

As the days turned to months Josh and I became good friends. I learned a little more about him every day, and the challenges he faced with such courage.

Thanks for reading this condensed version of Josh's story. The full version will be in a book form of collected essays that I'm working on.

Time for me to walk on down the road...  

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