Say you were given a red handkerchief, and with that red handkerchief you were instructed to fold it, wrap it over your eyes, tie it around your head and to resume the rest of the day. How would you approach your life?
At the counter of Court House Fitness it is not busy. The environment is still and you can hear the subtle, humming fan of a drink cooler and a soft rumble of towels cycling in the dryer. Complete silence, but only for a moment. A wave of gym members sweep into the building one person after another. Now, the dynamic of the environment has shifted to a parade of footsteps coming and going. It’s as busy as a Friday evening dining restaurant.
Don’t quite take off your red handkerchief yet. Stick with it. It’s no longer a red handkerchief to you. It’s absolute darkness. This is ordinary life for Philip Pine. In August of 1994, Phil got sick from food poisoning.
“At the time, I was getting ready to move out of my parents’ house. It’s hard to explain but it started like my eyes were looking through a fog. I was 20 years old and wasn’t willing to put my independent desires ahead of my health. Overnight, the day before I was set to move out, I woke up and couldn’t see. I was stuck. The retinas in my eyes tore and all blood vessels burst,” said Pine.
Pine has been manning the counter at Court House Fitness in Washington C.H. since 2001. It’s been a remarkable journey to transform himself into the person he is today.
“Over the course of the next seven years (from 1994 to 2001) there was a lot of discovery, figuring out who I was, and becoming comfortable with myself,” said Pine. “My world felt like it had collapsed around me in the first couple of years, and it was hard to relate to anybody because no one was in my shoes. I had low self-esteem and doubted my confidence. I worried about being a joke and feared that people would take advantage of me. I questioned it. ‘Why me? Why?’”
Things began to change for the better when Pine left a difficult relationship and chose to figure things out for himself. He decided that he was better than what he’d believed in. In 2000, he worked briefly at Fayette Progressive MRDD and met good people willing to open doors for him.
“Sometimes all you need is encouragement and I hadn’t had that outside of my parents’ (Charles and Penny Pine) support.”
Through a mutual acquaintance he was mentioned to work at the front desk of Court House Fitness in 2001.
“Mark and Kim Rodgers (owners of Court House Fitness) have always been supportive and treat us like family. It’s not like a traditional business-work relationship. They just let me be myself. Working here, I feel like we’re a part of a team. A good group of people that come together and get along.
“Through the years, I’ve sold thousands of memberships. I’ve laughed with members. I’ve cried. Sometimes people just come to talk. This is the reason I come to work. I get to hang out with my friends. This job just seems like it was suited for me.”
Pine went on to say, “They say that God won’t give you anything more than you can handle, and I guess at a point that’s the only thing I could believe in. A lot of times it’s still hard for me. Thankfully, I have my parents and my wife Jeannette. Especially Jeannette. I would be lost without my wife.”
Many people would go on assuming that Pine had been blind his whole life without getting to know him. Society is sometimes guilty of going along with general assumption, but, in getting to know Phil, you would come to find that he has far keener vision than many. That he’ll hear your story and accept you for who you are. Now, this time, we celebrate his story.
Pine shares, “I’ve experienced the whole spectrum of emotions. There was a lot of anger and frustration. But it all starts with being confident with yourself. I stopped caring so much what other people thought about me and, well, it works itself out. This experience has actually turned me out to be a better person overall.”