About four years ago when I was a rising sophomore in high school I was a regular at the Presidio YMCA, where I try to throw up plates on the bench press while completely disregarding my form. Sometimes I would see a tall white guy on the basketball court who would threes from all over, while his trainer rebounded. Pretty soon word got around that his name was Dan Grunfeld and that he would be a junior at Stanford, where he got some playing time on the basketball team. At the time I thought it was pretty cool but I didn't really think twice about it. What did he have to do with me?
The winter changed all that. Both of us ended up with torn ACLs, me for the second time and he for the first time. I actually watched the game that when it happened, and I "called" that he had torn his ACL (I did that with every leg injury at the time, but that's besides the point). It was a somber moment for me when I saw a tough player who I had seen in person have his career ostensibly ruined just as my fledgling career was ostensibly ruined at the time.
That summer, we were both rehabbing at the YMCA. Of course, I knew why he was there, but he had really no idea why I was there. Finally, I mustered up the courage to tell him that I too had torn my ACL, that I knew how hard the process of recovery would be, and that I wished him the best of luck. From what I remember, he thanked me but seemed a little bit reserved.
The summer ended and I watched him on TV play out his senior year. He did much better than I expected him to, and as his rehab process went faster than mine did, I felt confident that I too would be able to get back after it.
Two years had passed until I saw him again in person today. It was rush hour at the gym, so only one hoop was available, next to the hoop he was shooting at. He was still bombing tres from deep and he still had the same trainer working him out.
Then all of a sudden after he missed a shot, he looked at me, said hi, and asked how my knee was doing. It really blew me away that he remembered me and even took an interest in me. We chatted for a while about what we were each doing with basketball. Apparently his knee is stronger than it has ever been and he's still working at and playing the game he loves. He seemed like an awesome guy, and was happy for me to be playing at a "great school" like Vassar.
I have no moral to draw from this story. While it might sound corny, it was really just one of those moments that made me feel happy to be alive. Sometimes a seemingly small interaction can have a large impact.