Monday, May 3, 2010

Walk, Don't Run

There are certain occasions when it is inappropriate to run. There are also times that it just isn’t humanly possible. In both instances, we get where we need to go by walking.

In her almost five years, Sarah spent only a month or two walking. Once she learned to run she has been moving from place to place at break-neck speed. Literally. We, and anyone who has had her in their care, have cautioned, cajoled, reminded and reprimanded, but still she runs. And as leader of the pack, she has her brother running too. This has gotten them in trouble with the law on a few occasions.

On her second birthday, a special family friend gave Sarah a roller suitcase with which to transport her library books. So as was our weekly routine, the big kids would drag their respective suitcases into the library, conspicuously unzip them and loudly whisper to me as they slipped armloads of books down the book drop. Then Sarah would grab the handle and run to the children’s area, suitcase flapping open behind her. “Walk, Sarah. Walk!” I hissed, ironically running to catch her and slow her pace. It was the same thing every week. Then one day, as she was busily unloading her suitcase full of literary treasures onto the check-out counter, a tall shadow fell over her and a hand rested on her wee shoulder.

“Little girl, you need to walk in the library,” the six-foot librarian reminded in slow baritone.

She burst into tears and choked out an insincere ‘thank you’ at the will of her mother. She was desperately embarrassed. It made me think of my own early years as one of the many children tripping out of the classroom at recess bell, arms stick straight in an attempt to fool teachers into thinking we were walking. Kids run. They are compelled by the abilities of their young bodies and the enthusiasm for what awaits at the end of the trail. Admonitions about ice and gravel and gravity are not always heeded.

But years add weight. The pixie dust flakes off and our ability to fly is compromised. And we find that, sometimes, walking is all we can commit to. A few days ago I only half-joking commented to my husband that I was calling in sick, which we both know is a luxury unknown to stay-at-home moms. I wasn’t up to the task. And so I walked through that day. No extras. No dazzle. I was only able to offer my children meals, hugs and help with their toothbrushes.

There is a great deal of walking that happens on this planet. For most people it is the only mode of transportation. Many spend the majority of their waking hours walking distances to bring water to their families. Our birth mother walked an hour to meet us, since it was rainy season and the roads were impassable. I know the story of at least one woman from rural Ethiopia who spent seven years, mostly walking, on her journey to medical care in the capital city. Recently I spent a few days teaching inside a maximum-security prison in California. During their brief hours outside, men walked the track looking up, a square of sky framed by concrete walls and concertina.

Some days we are able to run, gifted with youth or inspiration. But on most days we walk and when we wait upon the Lord, we do not faint. One foot obediently in front of the other, slowly but surely getting where we need to go. Even when we are moving in circles.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, the will walk and not be faint” Isaiah 40:31

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