Tom Hebbard died Friday. Tom worked the midnight shift at the Evanston Y. I never knew his last name until I got the noticed that he had died.
I did my first triathlons (sprints) in 2005. That fall I decided I could improve my cycling skills by taking spinning classes at the Y. At that time the Y had four classes that started at 5:45 in the morning. I had never been an early morning athlete. I preferred to workout at the end of the day, but I decided to change my routine. I figured it was “found time” because all I would have been doing at the hour was sleeping. That’s definitely an older person’s mindset, and I can imagine my kids rolling their eyes at the logic.
Four days a week I would show up at the front desk to get a number for the spinning class. Tom was always there. A burly, Vietnam vet with a gravelly voice, a perpetual two-day growth of beard and thick glasses. By the beginning of the third week he knew my name and handed me a spinning number before I asked. He wasn’t Pollyanna cheerful, he was just friendly. He didn’t act like his job was a chore.
He was the first person I would talk to each morning.
It’s a small thing – to remember someone’s name. To offer a pleasant greeting. And during those long winter months when it was ten degrees out and I had to scrape the ice off my windshield and then drive all the way across town, if the first person I met after overcoming all those obstacles had been surly or just indifferent, chances are that more than a few of those days, I’d have just stayed in my warm bed.
Tom made all of us early-bird exercisers feel welcomed. Such a small thing – to remember someone’s name. To offer a friendly greeting. Tom touched a lot of lives. He made a difference. We will miss him every morning.
Workout: Bike: spinning class 50 minutes; Swim: 15 minutes in warm water pool; 10 minutes in cold pool;