As I came upon the second mile of my run I glanced at my watch and decided that I would see how quickly I could finish up the remaining mile. I finished the 3rd mile basically running flat out for the last quarter mile and was pleased with my overall time. I now have a goal to meet or beat that time in each run and would like to lower my minutes per mile even more on race day. Given that the race day course is basically flat and my training course is made up of several sizable hills I should be able to achieve this goal.
As I walked up the hill into our neighborhood, a young African American girl, whom I have seen many times and greeted, said something to me. I didn’t catch what she said, so I asked her to repeat it.
“Aren’t you cold?” she asked, obviously noting that I was wearing shorts and a long sleeved t-shirt while she was wearing a thick coat and pants.I walked on.
“It’s a little cold when I’m not running. The wind is what makes me cold more than anything.”
“Are you cold?” I asked.
“Yes” she replied as she turned and headed towards her front door.
At the crest of the hill there was a neighbor out on his corner lawn with two small dogs in tow. I was walking on the opposite side of the road but wanted to be friendly.
“Hello” I offered.So I crossed the street and asked him about his dogs. I learned that the dogs were his daughter’s who was in Spain on vacation with her husband. She is a helicopter pilot in the Marines and is getting transferred when she to San Diego when she returns. The conversation continued down a path of family and military service that was inextricably linked.
“Good evening” the man returned.
He appeared to be in his 60s.
“It’s a little breezy out tonight.” I said, as I was about to walk past him.
“Yes it is.” he stated. And then he paused with a look on his face as if he wanted to say something more.
The man I was talking to had served in the Marines for 12 years, his daughter is a Marine, his son is in the Air Force and he has two nephews who are in the Army, one who just returned from Iraq and the other is in Afghanistan. His grandfather had served in the military and been deployed to Siberia at the beginning of the Bolshevik revolution. There were multiple family members who fought and died in the Civil War.
He spoke about how the military had become more family friendly over the years. He stated that when he was serving the approach was basically Corps first, family second and he is glad things have changed in that regard because it was too hard being married and serving at the same time.
Then, while talking about change, he mentioned the current political situation. He talked about how he is saddened by the fact that the campaigns these days are so incredibly negative. He spoke of a longing for a campaign that talked about its own virtues and beliefs versus bashing the other candidate and promoting hatred and animosity. He wished for a candidate that was passionate and spoke his/her mind about an issue on the fly, as opposed to the talking points, campaign speeches and polished image being delivered by “Madison Avenue Poster Children” – I believe that’s what he called them.
He stated that he has been a Republican all of his life. He talked of how he was excited to have a young man who spoke with enthusiasm running for President and then he spoke of his disappointment in learning where he stood on the issues. He wondered why the Republican Party has not had a truly inspiring candidate in decades and if that trend would ever been discontinued. He longed for the day when a candidate would speak with passion about what they believed, inspire people to be more than they are and promote fiscal responsibility in government.
He then stated “If there were a third party candidate running that stood in front of people and said ‘I want you to vote for me and when I become President I won’t remember you or anything you want me to do’, well I might just vote for that person because at least they are being honest with me.”I couldn’t help but agree.
We talked about the lack of honesty and integrity in public office these days and he lamented the fact that there seems to be a void of character, passion and family values in the next generation of politicians. He spoke of past politicians that he felt had served their country well in their offices and then retired from them with dignity and respect. We spoke of the animosity between the Republicans and Democrats and both wished for something different, something more.
As the sun sank lower in the sky and the night air became cooler with each breeze, we ended our conversation. His little dogs were shivering with the cold as I introduced myself to him and shook his hand as he responded in turn. I thanked him for his service to our country and that of his family currently and through the generations. I wished him a good night and continued on my way home.
What I had thought was going to be a quick solitary run had turned into an opportunity to meet a neighbor. When I took the time to recognize those around me and focus on them for a few seconds, God gave me the chance to share an encounter with them. When I decided that the wind blowing against my exposed legs was worth enduring for a conversation with someone who appeared to need it, I was blessed with a wonderful experience that I would not have otherwise gained.
I need to be more aware of the possible conversations that I pass by every day.
Sometimes I run by them because I am focused on myself.
Sometimes I walk by and don’t hear them or I don’t respond for clarification.
Every once in a while, when I take a moment to respond as I feel compelled, I am blessed to meet a neighbor and share in a great conversation with them.
I’m glad that I stopped tonight and spoke with this man.
I’m not sure if he got anything out of our conversation, but I know I did.
And that’s how God works. He brings people into our lives, prompts us to interact with them and, when we obey, we walk away blessed.