Do you believe in Magic?

by Bob Harold

I have come to believe that magic “is”, after a lifetime of denying it. I am a scientist, trained in science. I’m accustomed to seeing the line between what is known and what is not. By embracing the concept of magic, I find I get to see the magic in the world more often, and more importantly, I get to feel the healing effect it has on me.

I am going to try to share with you a little taste.

I have a neurological disease that I have lived with for ten years. It is a progressive disorder that screws up the control signals that go back and forth between your muscles and your brain. It doesn’t do the massively nasty things that cancer does. It’s sort of a “cafeteria” disease. There are about 100 identified symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease. The average patient displays about twenty symptoms. By my calculation, it is possible to have 5.35*10 21 possible combinations. It would be a very uncommon event for two Parkeys to have same symptoms.

The most common physical problems are messed up balance, and muscles that don’t want to do what you want them to do. Parkeys benefit greatly from rigorous physical exercise. Because of the prevalence of balance difficulties, most of the exercise programs use chair exercises. The effectiveness of this kind of exercise depends mostly on creative movements that are developed by individual instructors.

Pharmaceutical companies found a tolerable drug that controls maybe 80% of the magnitude of any symptom. I pay $2 for a month’s supply. The problem is your best day only gets to 80% and you are 20% sick all of the time.

At this point you are probably wondering what I’m grousing about. The fact is, I get down on my knees every day and thank God for only giving me Parkinson’s and not something worse, and for giving me that wonderful medication, and for putting a bunch of awesome people in my life who give their time and talent to make my days better. People, who, I’m sure, could easily find something more pleasant to do with their time than hanging out with a bunch of Parkeys.

Let me introduce you to Lauren. She is one of our exercise instructors. Her classes typically draw 50 to 75 participants. She blasts into class; a bundle of youthful energy. She is easily the youngest person in the room, by half. Her classes are a very vigorous one hour, not 59 minutes, one hour.

I picked my seat so that I see the maximum number of people. I’m a “people watcher”. I aspire to be a story teller someday and people-watching fills my bag of story pieces. I am sitting at the end of the second row which has about 15 exercisers. The first row has about the same number. The rest are scattered behind.

Lauren blasts into the first routine. She enthusiastically greets a few people and exhorts the rest to get ready to get very busy. The energy level in the room spikes up. She calls cadence for all of the exercises while making eye contact with various exercisers, while complementing or encouraging them. She cracks jokes. The Parkys eat it up.

Toward the end of the session we go into exercises that use a ball to work on coordination and balance. But this time she hands out tennis balls instead of the usual 7” floppy rubber balls. I quietly say a little prayer for her. Doesn’t she know Parkeys can’t hold on to tennis balls, much less bounce them or throw them?

She coaxes us, little by little, to do many more things with our tennis balls than we ever imagined. Pretty soon we are dropping them less often. Then we are doing ever more daring things. The air is charged with…. I can’t describe it, karma or chi. Never mind what it is, my “magic” sense is registering full scale.

Then she does it. We Parkeys are under her spell. She urges us onward. If you want to get better at something, you have to push your boundaries. She leads us in even more dangerous moves. Not physically dangerously, but emotionally dangerous. It is well known that you can only find a Parkey’s ego with a microscope. We come here to this sheltered place to let it all hang out in front of God and everybody. We are here to prove that though our bodies are messed up, our spirit is unbent. An insensitive instructor could do damage. That wasn’t to happen today.

The only sound in the room is Lauren’s voice. At the end of a particularly difficult set she instructs us to balance the ball on our left fist. Not in our hands, our fists. Not on the right side, the left. No ball has fallen in a long time. She pushes us one more level.”Raise your fist up as far as you can, keep the ball balanced on your fist.” Impossible. Up went steady hands. I found myself looking down a row of left handed Statue of Liberties’ holding proudly their torches’. I took a quick look at the others. Perfect poses all. Not a word is spoken. No shaking hands. No shaking bodies. We are doing something we “can’t” do all because somebody we trust tells us we can. I look at all of these people I love and I’m overwhelmed+

Somehow we finished the session, I can’t remember.

People were a little stunned. “Did we just do that?”. “That was us.”.


As I have reflected on this story a few morsels of knowledge have crept into my brain.

1) hope is a magical thing

2) all hope is home made

go out and look for the magic. Take it home and expect a miracle

About the author:

Bob Harold (picture front and center with the dark blue t-shirt) has been a Power for Parkinson's community member for almost two years. He attends exercise classes regularly and is an active member of the Powerful Pipes singing group.

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