On a warm August night, we’re gathered in a beloved place–at the edge of a course to see them run. The starting gun fires, smoke drifting across the open field, and a mass of high-school boys takes flight.
We have been here a thousand times. We have nearly raced the course ourselves, following three running sons, and we know every place that we can spot them. As a family, we’re covering ground. Team Cub is here, and we’re on.
The pack thunders by. There he is! We shout our encouragement before moving to the next post. And there he comes again, then again, and again.
He’s slowing down now. The team at large is struggling. Ah, but it’s been a tough few days. The humidity here is high, making it hard, this elemental task of breathing. Some teammates are injured. There’s some sickness, too, but worst of all is the news that came down the day before–a classmate has died.
He’d announced it to us the day before. Walking into the kitchen after practice, backpack slung over a shoulder, he told me. “She was found today. She was in my math class. Sat across from me at the math table. I just talked to her last week!” Hearing it, my heart had wrenched for the family and those around her who were already struggling and vulnerable. Lord. God. Have mercy.
But back to the cross-country course, and my son.
He’s on the home stretch now. Legs churning, I can see that he’s at the end of his endurance. And that’s when I see something else. One of his big brothers sees him, too, and he has taken off running. As Cub heads down the chute toward the finish line, his brother is pacing him, running alongside, shouting all the way. “Go, Gabe! Go! Go!”
When I find my kid, he’s collapsed on the ground, chest heaving. Now the four of us are there, gathered around him. Then a teammate and good buddy comes by. He offers his hand, and he pulls him up. All together, we head for camp to find water and a little refreshment.
What happened last night on a wooded course is a perfect picture of life. Someone close by–maybe right where you’re standing–is trying to run, struggling to finish. Even the elemental task of pulling one breath, then another into lungs is nearly more than he can do. His endurance is gone, energy spent, and all at once you see him. So you take off running, pacing that racer, running them over the line.
Buoyed by your shouts, feeling your love, he makes it! He finishes his race. You’ve provided enough strength to finish.
We are all running a race. Let’s run each other home, shouting, cheering, and sharing courage along the way. We can, yes, we can, and we must.
Rhonda, the small, caffeinated American mom