There I was, layered like a cake against the cold, standing with thousands of others for hours, all of us anticipating a glimpse of our loved ones. A friend mercifully handed me her extra set of gloves, and in my mind I thanked mom for convincing me to wear a hat. My legs were sore from standing on concrete for so long, but I felt a little embarrassed verbalizing my discomfort – after all, I was a spectator at a marathon, and on the scale of soreness I had nothing on the thousands of people who were speeding across the finish line.
As I parked myself near the “100 metres to go” sign to cheer on my family members and friends who were in the race, I looked around at the other spectators. Every few moments I would hear a burst of cheers from a particular section, and a runner’s face would break out into a smile as they beheld the finish line.
Others, when they were cheered on, would adopt a look of steeled resolve, pushing themselves as hard as they could for the last stretch. Some looked close to passing out, desperation etched into their faces as they completed the final metres, and a few literally hobbled to the end, determined to finish despite being injured.
“Kate, you GOT this! You’re doing great!”
“Cesar, you’re almost there!”
“Andrew, you can do it!”
It was like wind in their sails, urging them to run one more kilometre, turn one more corner, take one more step.
My sister-in-law, Ruthann, describes an extremely challenging moment in the race. It comes at the point where she’s in a dead zone, with very few spectators. The road ahead seems endless and impossible, and weariness has kicked in. My father-in-law makes a special effort every year to reach this spot, giving her encouragement from the sidelines at the moment of greatest need.
As the day unfolded around me, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between a marathon and the lives of people around me – people who are working hard to elevate the dignity and value of other humans.
Like Jenn M, who helps refugees with the tremendous of obstacles they face in their search for a new home.
Like Ruthann, who raises her own salary so she can love and serve inner city kids and youth.
Like Jenn A, who rises before the sun to help run a non-profit cafe & eatery that has a huge vision and mission in her community.
Like Harmony, an ex-stripper who cares for women in the sex industry and trains others to do the same.
Like Matt, a teacher who doesn’t let the lack of job opportunities in his home province stop him from using his skills to run a homework club in his community and volunteer-teach in a dangerous, war-torn country where he is desperately needed.
Is there someone you know who needs encouragement? They may be in that dead zone, where the weariness is dragging them down and the finish line seems far, far away. Take a moment to encourage them today.