A couple miles into my run today, I passed someone coming the other way. He was lean — I’m guessing 5’10” and 150 lbs. Dressed in DriFit gear, ball cap pulled down low, head tilted… looking directly at his feet. He leaned to his right, and his left arm hung awkwardly away from his body. His gate labored, especially tugging his left foot forward. I kept running.
A few minutes later, I turned around. I wanted to know his story…
Alongside, I asked if I could jog with him. Still striding, head motionless, sweat dripping from his nose, he asked, “you mean… walk?”
I said, “hey, I’m good… just wanted to know… if you’d be kind enough to share your story?”
“What story?” he snapped back.
“Well, I find it pretty inspiring to see you, with an obvious limp, but still jogging” I replied.
He stopped, turned his head, and quietly spoke. “It sucks! Honestly, you have no idea how angry I am. How embarrassed I am. And then you come up to me. You know… I wake up every morning, and my left side betrays me. I used to be one of the elite long distance runners in the Puget Sound… and now, a stroke took that away. There’s your story…. and I guess it’s nice if this motivates you… but it sucks.”
I paused, then responded, “Wow. I can’t begin to imply I know how you feel. And, I’m certainly not telling you how you should feel. But I can tell you one thing for certain — you inspire me.
I’m blessed in many ways, and wonder how I would handle a real struggle… and whether you wanted to or not, you helped me. You showed me a way to respond. Thanks. And… I’d be honored if you’d allow me to take a photo from behind you as you jog… to share your story with others.”
He quickly replied, “No photos. Tell the story if you want, but no pics…. and, have a good run”.
So there you have it. Voices in our heads tell us we can’t, we shouldn’t, we’re too weak, too this, too that. But this dude… he gave himself permission. Permission to be as strong as his new body would allow.
But the story doesn’t end there.
As I jogged away, he shouted, “make sure you tell ’em… No. F~*king. Excuses!“
Indeed. Stuff happens. We respond. Who we are, and who we want to be — that’s up to us.