Like so many these days, I have been struggling. People near and dear to me are struggling as well. When it’s your own struggles it’s hard. When it’s someone you love who is struggling, well that’s a whole other level of worry and helplessness. And when I feel helpless or worried, I walk. If I am really worried, I walk further.
I was on a very, very, long walk a few days ago, when a jogger suddenly appeared at my elbow.
Usually I can hear the tell-tale slip and slide of jogging shoes coming up behind me, but this time I didn’t hear a thing. All was quiet and then, poof! There he was.
I jumped a little and we both smiled. I said hi and he nodded. He jogged a bit further and then spun around to face me- a respectful Covid Six in the distance-bouncing in place on his quiet shoes.
I figured he was going to apologize for startling me, but instead he startled me again, but this time with his words.
“Is there anyone you’d like me to pray for while I’m out on my run today?” he asked, like it was the most natural question in the world. Hi. How are you? Beautiful day, isn’t it? Anyone you’d like me to pray for while I run?
I fish-mouthed a bit as my mind calculated his likely religion and what his hidden agenda might be, but something about him was so…genuine. And I was so…worried. I softened and told him my loved one by relationship. He asked for a name and I gave it. Then he asked if I would mind telling him what it was concerning. I briefly told him.
He closed his eyes for a second, nodded and repeated the relationship, the name and the source of worry. Then he locked eyes with me, gave me a big reassuring smile and said, “Got it!” and off he ran down a side street, taking my worry along for the run.
“Thank you!” I called out and he raised a hand in the air in acknowledgement, without looking back.
As I watched him vanish around a corner, loved one and all, my eyes teared up. I felt silly, but hope and gratitude coursed through me, where only stress and anxiety had been before. My own steps became quicker. My shoulders lighter.
I came to a funnel that led up an embankment to an opening in the fence and then out to an overpass and back into our community.
Up ahead I noticed a man struggling to tie several garbage bags filled with cans to his bicycle. I eyed the slim opening in the cement fence beside him and slowed my steps, hesitating. He turned around and gave me a big, toothless smile. I smiled back, mumbled a hello and quickly passed.
As I came out of the opening onto the busy street, I thought of the ten dollar bill in the pocket of my purse. Then I thought of the chocolate bar in my shopping bag. The walk sign flashed and I quickly crossed the street.
My husband’s birthday was coming up and I had bought him some candy, along with a small gift. The sizeable chocolate bars had been on sale; buy one get one 50% off. I had grabbed two, one to give and one to devour myself in an attempt to numb the anxiety I’d been feeling. It was on sale, I told myself, so it was okay.
I came to a second crossing and waited for the light to turn. The street light flashed orange. Cars slowed. I turned around before I lost my nerve. Back across the street, down the sidewalk and back through the narrow opening. The man was still there. He had given up trying to tie the garbage bags to his bike and was having a smoke instead.
I held out the chocolate bar and the ten dollar bill.
“I’d like you to have this,” I said.
He took the small offering, smiled and nodded. “Have a blessed day,” he told me.
I didn’t tell him that thought I already was.