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It Starts with A Smile

I want to first of all thank you for reading this. To all the people with Parkinson's Disease (PD) who I have met through working at Beat Parkinson’s Today, I will carry the memories of your individual personalities and knowledge of the intricacies of what it is like living with PD throughout the rest of my life. If you are a loved one or friend of someone with PD, I hope reading this makes you more aware of the special community that is formed within our exercise program. Finally, to everyone else who may stumble across my writing, don’t be afraid to smile at the strangers you pass by. A simple smile, rather than a stare, can make all the difference in someone's day and form a connection between you both. With this we can help each other live with more strength and confidence.

After joining the Beat Parkinson's Today team two years ago, this is at least what I’ve come to believe. You see, when I walked into our East Hartford, CT gym, I thought that it was part of my job to have an impact over the course of someone's day. Did I know exactly what my job would entail? No. Yet, through my role's constant changes, I would eagerly await members walking in our door to smile, say hello, learn their name, and get to know little things about them. 

What I didn’t know was that at the same time people here would be trying to learn more about my life and make my day. Case in point, a member walked into my office last week and said, “hey, you go to SUNY Cortland, right?” I told him this fact once, a year ago, and on top of everything else going on in his life, somehow he stored that random piece of information. It’s the members and trainers who have become more like friends, too. They ask me out to lunch to catch up before I leave. They’ve let me stay at their homes when I get “kicked out” of Michelle’s condo. They’ve even taught me how to sew, or really just fixed my backpack as I awkwardly fumbled at threading a needle. They’ve religiously brought me clementines every week because they know that I need to get my vitamin C. What I’m trying to say is the care and love that all of you have shown me since I started here is a gift that not many people get to experience. I feel incredibly lucky to have felt this and to have formed a community with you all here. 

Even though it was me who was supposed to have an impact on your days at Beat Parkinson’s Today, it was actually the reverse. And so, although I physically won’t be here with you all every week, the impact you made on me will stay with me as I continue my journey.  It will be with me as I smile at people at my new job and remind me that I never know where I might find community. After all, per one of my favorite poems, “Human Family” by Maya Angelou, “we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”  

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