I am sitting in the living room of a friend in Roanoke, with four weeks left of the summer, trying to figure out how to explain all I’ve learned in the last eight weeks:
Life takes people on different journeys and occasionally lets people travel the same path for a time before the road forks, and the journey continues with a different person and different scenery. Time means nothing.
I have been journeying for twenty-four years, and some of the greatest people I’ve crossed paths with this summer in Roanoke are six years younger than me or more. But because of their own journeys up till now and their experiences, we are traveling the same path and are seeing the same trees and the same sunsets and are breathing in rhythm.
Then there are others who have been traveling almost as long as I have and are on the same path with me this summer but are not seeing the trees. They see the rocks. They do not see the sunsets. They see the clouds. They do not breathe with me. They pant much further behind. And yet it is my job to encourage them on the path until their journey takes them somewhere else. Sometimes that means I have to stop running ahead when they are tired. Sometimes that means I have to fill up their water bottles and let them drink when I am not thirsty. Sometimes I don’t get as far as I want to go because I have to wait on them. Sometimes a storm hits, and I am left behind to help those who do not see the trees or the sunsets, and they want me to stare at the rocks and the clouds.
Sometimes this journey is lonely.
Up till now in my journey, I’ve been able to break away and choose the people I want to run with. I have been able to run with people who take the same strides and run at the same pace. Not this summer. I’ve gotten cramps and charlie horses. I’ve been run over. I’ve been forced to break rhythm and have slammed into that brick wall over and over again. I’ve needed more rest time and more water breaks than ever before. And I’ve wished and prayed that the slower athletes would build endurance and catch up to the faithful runners so that I could get back into a steady rhythm, but they haven’t. And my running is suffering because of it.
I can’t change the way they run during their journey. But I can adapt my running to theirs for as long as I need to. Four more weeks. And then our paths may never cross again, but at least I will have run faithfully.