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What I Learned from My Own Mr. Miyagi

It’s as if time is standing still. This man, whom I just met, is present… in the moment… attentive. I learn a much-needed lesson that will not be soon forgotten.

After a long Sunday, I look forward to having Monday as a day of rest. I normally like to spend my day off outdoors– hiking, swimming, biking, etc.– but, shockingly (said facetiously), it is raining in Kentucky. So, my kids and I settle for an indoor swim and basketball day.

Hoping for a relaxing afternoon, we arrive at this aquatic center, only to find that there is a kid’s camp going on. The day just keeps getting better. Our relaxing afternoon has now been hijacked by fifty-plus screaming children. I might as well be at work; it would be more relaxing.

I almost leave, but we’ve made the drive– so… reluctantly we give in. They have three lanes blocked off in the lap pool as a “no kids zone,” so we jump in and begin our swim, trying to keep our mouths tightly closed as not to ingest too much urine-saturated water.

Three or four laps in, I notice a man in his eighties lowering himself slowly into the lane to my right. He says something to me, but I can’t make it out over the screaming kids, and then he motions for me to come over to him.

His eyes are glossed over, his voice rough and deep. He proceeds to tell me that he is a Vet, a writer, and is legally blind. He begins to talk to me about swimming. He has maintained decent health through his rigorous, weekly swim routine. He was a swimming coach back in the day and has much advice to give. I love what he has to say; I am all ears. I love to swim, and he is really helping. But, this is not what strikes me the most.

Just a few moments into the conversation, I am overwhelmingly distracted by the sound of a choir of loud, shrill voices. He must sense it. He puts his hand on the top of mine, which is resting on the lane divider. He comes a bit closer to me, now looking me directly in the eyes. Time stands still. For the next few moments, I cannot hear the children screaming. The background becomes a blur, and I am fully engaged in meaningful conversation. No cell phones distracting us– no interruptions at all. He is present. I am present. I feel human… valued…alive. Oh, how I miss this feeling.

Life is busy… too busy. Distractions are everywhere. People, technology, job demands– all vying for our attention. We are so overwhelmed that we often fail to appreciate moments. Moments with a spouse. Moments with our kids. Moments with friends.

I want to take time to appreciate each moment in life. I want to be more present with people, to make them feel valued and human. I resolve to put my phone down more, to turn off the television, to leave work at work. I aim to appreciate the finer things in life: conversation, human touch, recreation. At work, I want to be completely present. At home, completely present. The goal is to appreciate the beauty of each situation.

In the famous film ‘The Karate Kid,’ Daniel LaRusso goes to Mr. Miyagi wanting to learn to fight. What he gets is so much more. Larusso learns much about himself and about life. This kind man was my own Mr. Miyagi. I was hoping for swimming advice, but I received life lessons that will not soon be forgotten.

Be present today. Enjoy each moment.


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