When I run, I play a little movie in my mind. Here’s the scene: I’m running the Olympic marathon, and I’m winning. I’m on the last mile or two, way ahead of the person in second place. I see the stadium growing larger with every step. Crowds of people are along the route, yelling for me, and I run with energy, with power. I don’t drag myself to just finish, but I run with all the vitality I’ve ever had. I don’t grimace as I run; I smile. Then I’m finally just outside the Olympic Stadium. I run into the darkness of the stadium tunnel, only a few spectators standing there, but I see the light of the open stadium at the end. Finally, I step into that light, into a crowded stadium. I run out onto the track, to the finish line that’s only a minute away. The crowd erupts, when they see me, with joy, celebration, and magnificent happiness at my run.
You don’t need to hear me say this has been a rough go. We’ve been ill, in the hospital, dead, out of work, cooped up, tired, and sick of all this. You gave up games to go to, vacations to take, jobs and businesses, restaurant meals, conventions, and clinking drinks with friends. People lost jobs and businesses. We’re all suffering. In all this, our black and brown neighbors have said, “If you think you’re suffering, hold my beer,” while they’ve taught us of the sufferings that they’ve endured while people like me had the convenience to look away and not notice.
If you’ve run a distance race you probably know that feeling that comes two-thirds of the way through. You lose the joy of the beginning of the race. You just force yourself along without any energy. The burst of joy and vitality at the finish line is nowhere near. This moment of the Covid-athon feels like that ⅔ of the race emptiness. At the beginning of quarantine, we all threw ourselves into it all, the home crafts and haircuts, the home concerts and virtual church services. Now, though, we’re on mile 17 of the marathon; we’re all tired and we still have a long way to go. One of my favorites on Twitter, Simon Holland, said it this way: “Y’all still baking bread or are we all just sad now?”
I ran a race, just a 10K, many years ago, and on mile 4 I gave up. I stopped running and walked. I’d been sick, and the day was hot with Texas heat, and I just didn’t want to run anymore. I wasn’t even going to cross the finish line. I decided to walk to my car and leave. A guy comes alongside of me. He ran slowly, but he was running. He said, “Come on, man, you can do it.” So I ran with him the last two miles, and we finished. I think I even got a ribbon for placing in my age group. If you’re feeling like you’re just sad and tired now, can I come alongside, as that guy did to me, and say “You can do it”?
So, run, in whatever way you can. Write that book or song or whatever it is you’ve always wanted to write. It may suck, but maybe it won’t suck, and either way, you gave it a shot and that’s way better than just hanging out on the couch forever. Spend that extra hour with your kid, because in the long run you won’t regret it and what do you have to lose other than a little time staring at your phone. Write that note to your old friend, or call or text or email or whatever you do. Will you wish you hadn’t after you do? I doubt it. Write your sign and step into that protest march because you’ve always wanted to, and maybe once you start to stand up for what you’ve always known was right maybe the world around you will take note and hear your voice, even if it only feels like the faintest of whispers. Take up that exercise program; learn that language; take that step that scares you but you know you want to take. Whatever it is, whatever that step is right before you that you’ve hesitated to take, well take it and run.
Because there’s a crowd of people cheering for you, just like I imagine when I run. I cheer for you; we all do. And I know you’re cheering for me. Because deep in our hearts we know all the resentment and pettiness and fear we hold on to is a lie, and we’ve lost so much already so you may just as well throw the lies you’ve believed on the bonfire of 2020. Throw it on that fire and watch it burn, and then run the race you’ve always known you could. A crowd of people along the way cheer for you, and a stadium of people will overflow with joy at the sight of you running your race.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict