I intended to devote this month’s letter to the Centralized Testing that we held two weeks ago. It was a profound, even transcendental, experience and is likely to be a pivotal milestone in the educational process of nearly all the participants. It certainly was for me; I learned so much.
However, having just returned from presenting at a large conference in Valencia, Spain, I have decided to tell two stories, both of which illuminate a truth that is greater than centralized testing or even Pilates. They are stories about commitment and the power of the human spirit.
During the testing, I had the pleasure of examining a group of three exceptional students. Our policy is to not give results to the students on the day of testing. We give feedback, which as the weekend progressed transformed into mini-workshops, but the actual results are posted online on each person’s profile.
After I had examined the group, Jeanne asked how one of the students had done. I said she had been very good. Jeanne then asked if I would consider letting her know the result, because she was leaving for the airport to catch the next fight out. Her mother, it turned out, was in a critical condition but had insisted that her daughter leave her for the day to do her examination. The student had not wanted to leave her sick mother, but her mother insisted.
I, of course, agreed and we informed the student that she had passed. Elated, she flew back to inform her mother, who was in her final days. I sat in my office afterwards and dissolved into tears, thinking of the selfless act of the mother who wanted her daughter to succeed; a brave mother who recognized the power of education. I thought of my son Elan and of life’s delicate balance. I thought of the student, who had managed to teach a superb class in the face of such adversity.
My second story is from Spain, where I had the pleasure of presenting four workshops and a mat class at a conference organized by ANEP, an independent Pilates industry organization in that country. The conference opened with a beautiful ceremony and a special tribute to Javier Bseiso, a dear friend of myself and so many others who passed away recently. There were short speeches by Guadalupe Ruiz-Gimenez, a colleague of Javier’s at Universal Pilates and the most elegant and beautiful of women, and myself. Javier’s wife, Maria, was presented with a gift from ANEP.
My final words were my promise to Maria, their daughters and the Pilates community of Spain that I will do all in my power to keep Javier’s dream alive of bringing BASI Pilates to Spain. I know that with the help of Guadalupe and her incredible team it will be possible. In fact it will be my honor.
I had dinner the final evening with Javier, the president of ANEP and my host, and Luis, the owner of Pilates equipment manufacturer Bon Pilates which provided tons of equipment for the conference. At midnight they suggested that we drive around Valencia to see the sights. I needed to get up at 4am, so it did not seem like a good idea. But the Spaniards are persuasive and I was easily persuaded, particularly when they assured me “10 minutes, no more”!
At 1am we were at the City of Art and Science amidst the most magnificent modern architecture I have ever seen. I was blown away! When they informed me that next year’s conference would be held in that location, my insistence that I would be unable to attend again next year suddenly did not seem so set in stone!
But that is not my story. My story began when I got to the airport at 4.45am, checked in and set out for the gate. On the way, I bumped into two young men who had attended all my classes at the conference. I commented that they looked blurry-eyed and jokingly asked if they had been out partying all night. No, they said. They had slept on a bench at the airport to save money and were about to purchase last-minute tickets home. I wished them my best, told them how much I enjoyed meeting them and then went on my way. After a short while, I went looking for them, wanting to invite them to breakfat. But they were about to board their flight when I found them. The drive and sacrifice of these two young men touched me deeply.
Well those are my two stories. I realize that I have been granted the blessing to touch lives and that it is a gift I will never take for granted. I am humbled to my core when I think of these events. All I can say is thank you, and thank you again to all of you who allow me to touch your lives.