Thursday, November 16, 2006

The jogger

My career as a jogger lasted from Monday until the following Friday morning. My jogging endeavours came to an abrupt halt because it was raining and I didn’t want to get wet. That was in 1982. Since then, I think I have only jogged for a bus, and that, only if it’s almost on top of me and I can reach the bus stop without too much effort. Of course, not wanting to be soaked by the rain was just a convenient excuse. I’m from England…isn’t it almost a surprise that we are not born with fins and flippers?

There are many joggers around Rome, and I have not the slightest inclination to join their number. My latest excuse is that a couple of days ago, as I approached the entrance of Vatican Radio, a young woman tripped on the uneven road surface and the next thing I saw was that her feet were waving in the air in the way that a jogger’s feet are not intended to do.

I was concerned because she must have had quite a nasty fall and probably hurt herself, yet, to my surprise, far quicker than I would have managed, she was upright and running once more.

During the course of life there are many times when we fall. Sometimes it’s an actual physical tumble that leaves residues of skin and blood in just the places where they are not meant to be, with bits of gravel creating patterns on rather sore knees.

Some falls leave little damage. I remember being told of a friend’s 9 year-old son, who fell 100 metres over a cliff edge that had been hidden by snow. The father expected to see the child’s broken body far below him. Instead, when he looked over the cliff, he found his son had fallen into a small pool of water. He survived with only a cracked elbow to show for his fall!

The falls that cause most harm are the ones that hurt us inside, often where nobody can see. Those are often the most difficult ones. They are the ones when it can take great courage to stand up again. Yet, without that strength, it will not be possible to walk.

When I was based in Australia, I had the privilege of watching a paraplegic walk for the first time. A cumbersome experimental gadget was strapped around his waist, whilst electrodes from that black box extended to his leg muscles. An electric current stimulated muscles that everybody had thought were dead. The man was exhausted and dripping with perspiration from the effort, but he had walked against all odds. He had been told he would never again achieve that one simple act. Yet he went against all predictions. We who watched, also wept for joy.

It is wonderful to see someone convert failure into success, but the conversion doesn’t necessarily have to be something that the rest of the world will measure. The jogger pulled herself up and continued running. The paraplegic walked for about twenty paces. One of my successes was that I learned to eat tomatoes. It’s not significant to the universe, but it was to me.

There is a Chinese proverb that says that a journey of one thousand miles starts with a single step. It is that step that takes the courage, strength and determination, but after that, we’ve all learned to walk. A toddler falls many times. Sometimes it laughs. Sometimes it cries…but it learns.

As the saying goes: Don’t walk ahead of me: I might not follow.
Don’t walk behind me: I might not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Remember the ‘Footprints’ story?

God bless,Sr. Janet