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Local Voices: Why You Shouldn't Call In Sick Unless Absolutely Necessary

If you stay home, you might just miss that person who teaches you how to live.

I thought about calling in sick to teach my classes at the gym last week. I don’t even get up very early. I just didn’t feel like it.

The kids both had stuffy noses that started with a sore throat. No fevers this time, but wasn’t that a faint tickle I felt in the back of my throat? It’s so cold, I thought. I could easily call in and find a substitute for my two classes.

But no, I knew that’s just a slippery slope. And, it's not like I felt terrible. Winter hadn't even officially started. Get up and go, I said, reminding myself that you shouldn't call in sick unless absolutely necessary. I am so glad I did.

About five weeks ago, a new person came into my Yoga/Pilates class, Danielle. As instructors, we are trained to always ask if there is anyone new to class, so we can guide them more fully through movements.

Danielle told me she hadn’t worked out regularly in seven years, but at that time had been a yoga instructor. I welcomed her enthusiastically and we started our workout.

Danielle was older than me; I could tell. I don’t really try to guess a person's age, as I feel I am terrible at it anyway. Also, it doesn't really matter to me. (I constantly forget my mother’s age, which she is somewhat responsible for by telling us, “Age does not matter." I think she’s right.)

Danielle moved through the yoga poses with both familiarity and some slight difficulty, but one of the best parts of yoga is that the movements help you become more balanced and strong very quickly.

After class, I thanked Danielle for coming, and told her I hoped I would see her again. She said she definitely would be back for my classes and then shocked me when she told me she was 67 years old. I would never have guessed.

Danielle did come back. In fact, she came to every one of my yoga classes for the next five weeks. We shared a bit about ourselves as group instructors, our fitness history and our families.

I learned that Danielle would be moving in the new year to the western suburbs of St. Louis, so she could provide more room for her grandchildren to visit. She had mentioned she would try to keep coming to our gym in the Central West End, The Lab.

I am so glad I did not listen to the little devil on my shoulder that morning last week telling me to call in sick. When Danielle walked in to class, she told me it would be her last at The Lab.

She decided she must be realistic. The Lab would be a far drive and she had discovered her insurance company would pay for full membership at two gyms closer to her new home.

We talked and laughed through our final class together.  At the end, as we said our goodbyes, I learned for the first time that her daughter and her family live in Madrid, Spain.

Furthermore, seven years ago, at 60 years old, she walked in the Camino de Santiago in Spain. She asked if I had ever heard of it, and I had not. (My cultural experience is very limited and specific to Germany, my father’s homeland.)

She explained that the Camino de Santiago is an annual pilgrimage in Europe of hundreds of miles, always with the same destination: The town where St. James is buried. People from all walks of life, all over the world and all ages come together for the walk.

Danielle said she wanted to tell me that she realized many things on the walk, but one of the best was that the Camino de Santiago is representative of one’s life.

She said she would meet people and walk and talk with them for maybe 10 minutes or a whole day, and then not see them again the rest of the trip, and that was okay.

Danielle explained how she was glad we had met. She thanked me for being a good teacher and said that now it was time to move on. I said thank you to her as well and that change is good. We both teared up as we hugged goodbye and wished each other well.

People continue to surprise me.

It's likely I will never see Danielle again, but I will never forget her. She had the courage to return to yoga after a seven-year hiatus, walk into a gym class at 67 and get back at it. Not to mention that she walked such an amazing pilgrimage at 60.

She inspired me to never give up, even if you think you already did, and to try new things, like walking hundreds of miles in a foreign land with many strangers.

By doing this, and having the courage to truly live, we can enjoy the journey and the people that come and go while on the trip. Don’t call in sick, unless absolutely necessary. You might miss an important pit stop.

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