The woman stood in the middle of the ice rink, one toe up on the edge of the skate, and watched over the rink like a queen inspecting her staff or a hardened general watching over a battlefield.
The woman wore a matching blue jacket and pants and a white headband that kept her hair pulled back and out of her face. She looked in one direction than the other, stoically taking in the chaos of the public skate, full of little speed demons, flying in every different direction with no regard for anyone else’s safety and eyes-wide-open novices, stuck within arm’s reach of the wall.
When and only when she felt the all-clear, the woman would kick-off in a miniature figure-eight pattern, back and forth, back and forth, in the middle of the rink. She skimmed over the ice with a simple grace and ease, finishing her impromptu routine with a spin that seemed to last for minutes.
I looked around to see if anyone else noticed or was taking in the spur-of-the-moment performance. Of course not, everyone else was caught up in their own little conversations or simply trying to stay vertical on the ice. I seemed to be the lone spectator, the lone figure skating judge.
Now, I know next to nothing about figure skating. When I come across a figure skater on TV, I can’t flip the channel fast enough. Like many Americans, my knowledge is limited to watching the sport every four years as part of the Winter Olympics and then I join the rest of my fanatical brethren, cheering every successful jump and complaining when the points get tallied and my favorite skater “gets hosed.”
However, seeing the woman close up, I couldn’t help but have a newfound appreciation for the sport and for her grace or strength. I thought the performance might be one-and-done, but when she finished, she skated back to her original spot, took her commanding position, watched to make sure that she wasn’t interfering or stepping in front of any other skaters and started again. And again, and again, and again. She went on like this for the next hour.
I was in awe of the grace under pressure, the calm in the middle of the storm. The closest example I can muster would be a newborn baby in a busy emergency room. Perfection in the midst of commotion.
I was still thinking about the woman when three teenagers came barreling off the ice to bench area where I was standing. Most of the skaters who walked off the ice, came off to tighten their skates or to take a quick break. These three came running off, swearing and making fun of another group of teenaged girls.
They talked in loud, quick, choppy sentences. “Who does she think she is,” one girl said. Another chimed in, “I’ll show her. I’ll get back at her during first period on Monday. She won’t be able to hide behind Mrs. Adams then.”
I would have laughed at the scene, but their language—full of crude f-bombs and swear words —was worse than a sailor on three-day leave. I stepped away from the girls, amazed by the contradictions in front of me: One woman full of grace and kindness, and three other kids, full of bluster and rudeness.
Life is sort of like that, the good and the bad. As I get older, I’ve become even more convinced on a simple fact: In a world of craziness and the hyper, you have to look for the good.