August 2, 2013

Crossing the Finish Line

Oh, I’ve done a couple of 5Ks and a mud run or two, but honestly: I don’t like running. What I do like is the feeling of “Wow I really can do this” when I run for a longer distance with each workout, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with finishing a race.

By now you’ve heard about the marine who fell back during a race to help a little boy who was struggling to finish running that same 5K. Just imagine it: the finish line tape in sight, sensing that you’re beating last year’s time, pulling ahead of the pack with your running buddies when you hear someone ask “Sir, would you please run with me?” It’s the right thing to do so you do it. And the marine did.

The story’s blown up on social media channels and nationwide newscasts, and the marine has received well deserved recognition for doing the right thing.

But what about the boy?

This kid could’ve asked the marine to carry him --  after all, marines are tough guys. That scene alone: the kid on the marine’s shoulders triumphantly crossing the finish line – talk about American as apple pie. It would’ve been a thing of beauty.

Or, he could’ve asked the marine to sit curbside with him until the boy’s family, who had gone on ahead, finished the race and found him. That would’ve made a nice picture of Americana too, I can just see the headline: “Tough Marine Shows His Tender Side.”

Both options are picture postcard perfect, but neither involves finishing the race, and finishing is what this kid wanted to do.

This boy, this little nine-year-old boy, didn’t want out. He knew he just needed someone alongside going step for step and encouraging to help him finish the race. So he did a courageous thing:

He asked.

He asked a complete stranger for that companionship and encouragement, opening himself up for rejection even as he was probably at the lowest point in his short nine years on earth.

And he didn't mince words: "Sir, would you please run with me?”

It’s a question I think many of us want to ask in the midst of whatever race we’re running, but can’t for whatever reason.

I’m convinced of it.

Over the past fifteen years alone, there have been four instances of suicide within my circle of colleagues and friends. When people are at that point, their mental illness gags “Please run with me” in the throat and the race ends too soon.

In this crappy economy, people are working two or three jobs and still can’t make ends meet. My guess is that we pass them every day on the street, or in our church, or in school or in the workplace, but they can’t eke out “Please run with me” because they’re too caught up in finishing the race with their pride intact.

Then there are The Moms. Made of steel but yet soft, bringing the bacon home, frying it up in a pan, omnipresent and forever on call. How many times are they – are WE – am I thinking “Please run with me” only to sweep the words into the corner along with the long-ignored dust bunnies.

The prophet Isaiah said “…a little child shall lead them” and I agree. This kid set the example for strength, humility and courage because that’s what it takes to ask. To risk rejection or perhaps even ridicule.

So in this age of personal branding, keeping up with the joneses and as many of us silently limp along, I hope and pray that when we need to, all of us can find the courage to ask:

“Will you please run with me?”


  1. Trying this again, Rochelle...

    I'm here because God wouldn't let me commit suicide, 14 years or so after He'd helped me find the doors of the 12 Step rooms. I became proof that you could be clean and sober and crazy.

    Four years ago, around this time of year, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer; aggressive form, six months to live. I asked Him for miraculous healing and He replied "No - I've got this."

    I'm not ashamed of Him any more, nor am I too proud, full of self-pity, or anything else that would keep me from responding to Him.

    I will run with you the race set before us both. My COPD (diagnosed at the same time as the cancer) doesn't affect my ability to run here in Cyberia. :)

    1. Blinking back tears as I write this, Rick. Thank you for your testimony and for the blessing that it'll give to others who read it, as it's blessing me right now.

      Thank you for sharing your race and how God runs it with you...and runs the race with each of us.

      Thank you so much. Truly.

      Blessings. :)

  2. You're more than welcome. BTW? I have two Marine sons, who would probably have done the same as that other brother in arms had they been there. Keep writing!! :D

    1. ...if your two sons are anything like their dad, I KNOW they would've! :)