I went running

I had a bit of a break today at lunchtime so I grabbed the dogs and went running. Tuesday’s not a normal running day since I work out at the gym on Tuesdays. But today I needed to run.

Like you, I have been heartsick over the tragedy in Boston. I have all of the feelings that come hand in hand with tragedy like this. But with this one, there’s another layer.

While I know people who’ve run Boston, more than likely I never will. I’m still looking for that elusive first marathon to to hang on my wall. But I’m a runner all the same.

A marathoner on NPR said it well today. “Marathons are about the best of the human spirit. Total strangers cheer you on and give you orange slices and tell you they’re proud of you.” I love to do races because of that spirit and energy. When people tell me, at the end of a training program, “I don’t need to do the race because I’ve already run the distance” I tell them that they’re missing the best part.

Like you, I’m heartsick over this new Boston Massacre. I didn’t quite know what to do with it all so I went running. I ran to honor all of those who were there yesterday. I ran because when we feel a little lost we go back to those places that feel most like home.

I think that’s why Peter announced he was going fishing after the resurrection. Sure, Jesus was alive but it was probably still very confusing, even if less sad. Besides, Peter knew he’d let Jesus down when it mattered most, and that air had not been cleared between them. So he went fishing.

And  I went running. I packed the dogs into the car and took them to one of the places they love best, the trail around Salem Lake. We ran between the perfect combination of water on one side and woods on the other. Deep still waters. Tall, deeply rooted trees with the first vulnerable leaves of spring. Clouds drifting away, leaving behind a warm blue sky.

The dogs grinned and sniffed and grinned some more. They’ll sleep better tonight for having exercised their full dogginess. Perhaps I will too. For there was healing in the running and healing in the creation and healing in hearing all of the stories on the radio, today not stories of mayhem and confusion but stories of compassion and caring.

ImageThe marathon is about the best of the human spirit, she said, and it was so yesterday as well. Restaurants offered whatever they had, free of charge if you didn’t have your wallet on you. A “pet hotel” offered to keep the pets of stranded people. People opened their homes to complete strangers. A man somewhere in the south called his tax preparer and said he wanted to donate $100 of his return to injured marathoners. 

As more stories emerge, our hearts will break again and again. If we are wise, we’ll care for our hearts by doing whatever it is that we do… running, fishing, caring for one another, allowing our broken hearts to open to the world.

We weren’t able to stop the bombs from going off.

But that bomber cannot stop our tide of love.

 

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Silly Old Alum

I have become one of them.

One of the people I used to make fun of (or, in honor of my grandmother’s insistence on correct grammar, those of whom I made fun.)

As a college student we’d see them on campus occasionally but especially at Homecoming. The old people. The alumni. We could spot them right way. They walked without purpose, mainly wandering around as oppose to we students who had Places To Go. They’d say things like, “The trees have gotten so big.” Well, yeah. trees don’t shrink, you know. They’d remind each other of escapades that happened in this place or that, things that seemed a bit quaint to our sophisticated ears. And they took pictures. They were always taking pictures. I mean, how many pictures of the bell tower does one person need?

I have become them. I had a meeting this week in Greenville, SC, giving me the perfect opportunity to return to my alma mater, Furman University. I wandered around. I kept interrupting my run around the lake to take pictures (yes, including the bell tower.) I muttered to myself about how big the trees were now. I got misty-eyed.

Actually, to be perfectly honest, I cried. In front of students. To their credit, they didn’t panic when this old person talking to them started crying and they didn’t start edging away from me. They stood their ground and told me about interfaith cooperation. What I couldn’t tell them was that I cried because my heart was so full. 

Technically I was walking the campus alone but I had many people with me… my roommates and fellow “Hutslers” (RobI, CaroLee, Dorat, and KatWorlf – I’m looking at you. We lived in a lakeside house called the Hut and which looked  more like a hut than its present resort cottage incarnation. (Sorry for the old person digression.) 

But I mostly  walked with my professors, some of whom also became my friends. As I walked down many of the sidewalks I thought about walking them with the chaplains, both of whom mentored me in different ways and both of whom blessed my gifts. Many of the professors and one of the chaplains are gone now but their influence continues in my heart.

I was overcome, my heart filled with gratitude. Gratitude for having the opportunity to receive  a fine education. Gratitude for having spent four years in such a beautiful place (even if I was not yet a runner in those days.) But mostly gratitude for the people who didn’t just teach me things but who invested their lives in my life. They made a difference. They changed me, all for the better.

The truth of it is that we all have the opportunity, professor or not. It comes as we bless and name the potential and the gifts we see in another. Or it comes as we encourage them to be the person whom God created them to be. It comes as we create safe containers in which they can be honest about their despair, their grief, the joy and their dreams. It comes as take the time and make the effort to look another person in the eyes, to stop for even just a moment to be present with them and to them.

Bless you.

Bless them.