Friday, February 15, 2013

Running with Christian

I don’t know how it is for the rest of the world, but there are very few things I feel less motivated to do in my day than go to the gym. It doesn’t matter how completely free my schedule happens to be, or how many calories I’ve consumed on the previous day to warrant a workout or five, because when I think of working out, I just tend to be filled with dread. At least, this is how it usually is.
            A few weeks ago, I woke up one morning with the sudden and most out-of-character urge to run.  I bounded out of bed, got dressed, and ran to my window to open the blinds and let some light in. However, when I looked outside it became clear that my urge was not going to be easily satisfied. Every inch of the sidewalk and street was covered in sheets of ice and snow.
            “Oh well,” I thought after the disappointment had subsided, “I’ll just go to the recreation center after class.”
            I went through my day with continuous excitement. I couldn’t wait to put my tennis shoes on and get to work.  Several times during the day I got asked by friends to hang out in the afternoon. Normally, I’d say yes in a heartbeat, abandoning my feeble thoughts of exercising. On this day, I refused every offer I received. I was on a mission to build muscle and no one could alter my plans!
            True to my word, I made my way to the gym that afternoon. I slipped on my tennis shoes and walked past the tennis and basketball courts to the track. After a quick stretch, my muscles were itching to go.  I was ready to run, ready to go, ready to do whatever it took to fulfill my desire! I walked up to the starting line and took off across the track with determination.
One lap down. Two laps down. My heart starta to race and adrenaline rushes through me. I feel huge, I feel powerful, I feel unstoppable. But, as I finish my third lap I am greeted with the unexpected.
“Hey!” a tiny high pitched voice squeals from behind me. “Hey! Wait for me!”
Without stopping, I glance behind me and see a little round faced boy in an orange shirt running with all his might toward me.
“Hey! Wait up please! I want to run with you!” he calls out to me again, completely breathlessly.
            In slight annoyance, I slow down momentarily and let the boy catch up to me. He is adorable and under any normal circumstances I know I would have loved to have played with him, but today I have come with a purpose: to run. Fast.
            “Are you here with someone?” I ask the little boy wondering why he isn’t with an adult.
            “My mom works here,” he says in between gasps for air, “But she’s busy and can’t play with me right now.”
            I want to say, “I’m busy and can’t play with you either!” but something makes me stop.
            “What’s your name?” I ask instead, still trying to remain concentrated on the track ahead of me.
            “Christian,” he says. Streams of sweat are trickling down his forehead and into his eyes, but he still looks up at me with a smile.
            “How old are you, Christian?”
            I smile a little, but can’t seem to shake my focus on the task I have started on. This is my running time, and little Christian was interrupting it.
            “Hey!” he says again. “Hey, you’re running too fast for me!”
Without slowing down, I look back at Christian who’s completely red-faced and soaked in sweat, barely able to pick his feet off the ground.
“My legs are too little to run like yours,” he remarks sadly, the smile now faded from his face.
I knew I was here to run. My plan was to run. I had to run. And yet, right there behind me was a six year old boy begging me to be his friend.
“Don’t worry,” I tell him, “I’ll slow down.” And I do.
 Christian’s running speed more closely resembles my walking pace, but I continue around the track with him for five laps until his mom comes and collects him.
“Maybe I’ll see you next time I’m here and we can run together again!” he calls out to me as he leaves with his hand tightly grasping his mother’s.
“That sounds like a great idea!” I reply with a smile.
In the end, I barely broke a sweat. I ran five laps at a walking pace with a six year old, and then had to make it to a dinner appointment. But my experience running with Christian has really been making me think.
I wonder how many times I’ve gone about life finishing my own agenda without even realizing that there’s something more important that needs my attention. I make plans, I make so many plans, and they always seemso important. But after that day, I wonder what I have missed out on all of the times I have been too busy or too determined to get all the things on my checklist crossed off that I’ve missed the little six year old details around me. I wonder how many times my own plans have consumed so much of my attention that I fail to see a bigger plan happening around me. I wonder if everyone else is doing the same thing?
What if, every once in a while, we took our eyes off that rigid and narrow track we’ve set in front of ourselves and looked around the broad and open gym. There are things we are missing, things that need our attention and these things, as much as we wish they were, aren’t always convenient. Sometimes these details can ruin our plans. They can slow us down like trying to run with a tiny-legged kindergartner. But these details are still important, probably more important than the schedule we are trying to stay on or the checklist we are trying to complete.

Plans aren’t everything, schedules are not the ultimate rulers, and fast isn’t always better. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is to give up, at least for a moment, your own agenda, and run five plodding laps with a six year old who needs a friend.

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