Down here in Tallahassee, I do not have a regular church to attend. I rely on recommendations and random Google searches to find services, which can lead to mixed up times and interesting situations. Yesterday, I found an evening service that started at 5 pm. I carefully wrote down directions and noted the address, in order to minimize confusion and ensure that I made it there on time. I pulled up to the church and found that it was a slightly confusing structure with multiple add-ons and no clear front door. As I was puzzling over where I should attempt to enter, I saw a car of older women pull up and start to unload. I quickly hopped out of my car to seek some information from them and caught them just as they were about to enter.
A total random stranger emerging from the darkness to beg directions did not faze these ladies one bit. In fact, after informing me that I was an hour early for the service (never trust service times found online; it is my experience that churches tend to be quite lax about updating them), they invited me inside for a dinner they were putting on for those helping with the service. Poor professional distance runners never turn down a free meal, so inside I went! I am so glad I did.
Of course, the food was excellent. Anyone who has ever eaten a meal prepared by the women of a Baptist church can tell you that it will never fail to be delicious. They had ham and tuna salad sandwiches, a lovely beef vegetable soup, and thick cornbread straight from the oven with cookies and sweet tea to top it all off. I was grateful for the warm soup on a chilly evening, and while the food hit the spot perfectly, it was the company that made my evening.
I was sitting at a table with a wonderful host of characters. They were all so interested me, since I was obviously the odd man out, the only one under the age of 40, but I wanted to know about them. In between answering questions about myself, I was able to glean a few bits and pieces concerning each of them. Two of the women I met are blind, and yet both seemed so full of contentment and patience. Another woman had worked for years for the airlines, in customer service no less, and still had a heart for serving others that shone through in the hour that I ate with her. Jerry, the only man at the table, is retired, but still takes the time to volunteer with disabled people.
After sitting and chatting with these remarkable people, I was so humbled. They were amazed by my job and validated me in pursuing my dreams and passions. It was a wonderful reminder of how blessed I am. I get to be here in the south, escaping winter and the snow and ice that can be so detrimental to training, doing what I love. Every day my job is to play, and for that I am truly grateful. Yes, the training is tough and there are days when I am tired and maybe don’t want to do all the ancillary aspects of training, but when I stop and consider, I realize there is nothing I would rather be doing.
The greater blessing to me though was the opportunity to sit and learn from people who serve others as a way of life. It is nice to be shown by example how to reach out and befriend a stranger, to serve food to those who need it, to reach out beyond yourself and be a light to someone else. It can be easy to lose sight of that in the midst of training hard, and I am quite glad I was super early and slightly lost because it enabled me to learn a great lesson from some remarkable people. I am looking towards Houston, progressing each day in pursuit of a great race, but I will not forget to stop along the way to lend a hand to those who need it. In the same way that I pursue excellence in running, I will pursue generosity as a way of life.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas, full of love, happiness, peace, and beauty!