Today, I ran. I ran by a man who was riding his bike with his little four-year-old son on the back, who caught me off guard when the man shouted "Rascal! Comeouwn boy!" I soon realized that he was talking to his beautiful golden retriever, not his child, and the dog obeyed his every command without flaw. Rascal chased the man's red bike while he peddled furiously up the bike path that ran just by the river. The man held out a long stick to bribe the dog along before throwing it into the dancing river below. Rascal sprinted to the water's edge, jumped in, paddling with all of his might to retrieve the stick, and it immediately took me back to my childhood. It took me back to my summers in Kansas with our black lab named Lady who used to retrieve rocks, balls, and sticks from the water on days I went fishing at the pond with my dad.
Today, I ran. I ran by a man in his 30's who, at first glance, seemed to have brought everything but his kitchen sink out to go fishing along the still bend in the river. Then, after a little more rude staring, as I ran across the bridge above, I noticed that all the things he had brought along that seemed to be consuming so much space in the grass beside him had nothing to do with fishing at all--they were his daughter's toys. He had hauled out her child-sized lawn chair, a few stuffed animals, a blanket for her to sit on, a small fishing pole, a cooler of snacks, and a cute little pink hat. I couldn't help but smile at the loving gesture I was witnessing and felt as if I was intruding on a personal moment that was never meant for me. The girl seemed to be content and happy just sitting in her dad's presence as he casually turned to her to talk to her every couple of moments. That's what life is. It's those little moments that catch my breath in my throat.
Today, I ran. I ran by a woman walking, her face focused on the path ahead and literally wearing a growl. I wondered what had happened to her earlier in the day, where she lived, what she did everyday, and why she was so upset about walking in the beautiful sunshine on a Saturday afternoon. I just wondered.
Today, I ran. I ran by a man who drove up and parked at a remote control racecar track with his very young son. Running by, I watched as this man's child unloaded his wheelchair from the back seat, helped his dad get into it, and wheeled him across the parking lot to set up their cars. I ran to the end of the stretch and returned back the same way. As I clomped back by, I watched the little boy. He laughed so hard that he threw his head back and pierced the air with his high-pitched giggle while the man chased the boy's car with his own remote controlled one. It was sweet to see the man, who didn't have the ability to chase his son in real life, and yet found a way to be competitive with him anyway. It touched my heart. They had a hobby together. The dad never gave up.
Today, I ran. I ran by a homeless man walking on the running path under the bridge. I would be lying if I didn't say that I was scared of running by him at all since I was by myself in a city I never come to, and didn't exactly see him on the path until I rounded the corner. Besides that, I didn't know where I was--and at least 3 miles from home--or if he would try anything funny. (Sure, I was stereotyping, but I feel like sometimes girls can't be too careful.) But, this sweet man must have read my mind because he crossed to the complete edge of the other side of the path, smiled nicely at me, then put his head back down being careful not to frighten me by staring. He struck me as a sweet man who just had a lot of hard moments. He wasn't sitting on a street corner begging for food. He was minding his own business in the middle of nowhere and I was judging him. I had a reality check and was, all over again, thankful for my own life.
Today, I ran. I ran home to a husband who loves me and in-laws that are wonderful. To a warm house, a shower, and some ice cold water. I ran home to a computer that missed me, a cell phone that had 2 messages waiting, some clean clothes to put on, and some mint ice cream.
Running is so good for the soul. I would have never told you that a year ago, but I really feel like sometimes, on days like today, it's a gift, and I got to see the world. Lots of things other people missed out on reached out to me, just by running by.