Jan. 29, 2013 • Issue 18 • Volume 146 • 8
If life were a track
Chaplain’s Corner Kevin Bourque It’s a quiet Wednesday afternoon. The semester has just begun, and traffic at the Currie Center is beginning to increase. Kneeling down and tying up my shoelaces, I can discern the sound of two older men walking together around the track; they are chatting as they go. Minutes later, I see a middleaged woman. She is walking briskly, her eyes fixed with sharp determination. “What I am doing here?” you may ask. Over the holiday break, I had surgery to repair a hernia and my goal for today is to attempt “light activity”. In this case, “light activity” will be walking for a sustained period of time. As I make my way around the red, cushioned course, my pace is noticeably slow for a man of 34 years old, who from all visual appearances, would seem to be in perfectly good health. I wonder if those around me wonder why I move more like the tortoise than the hare. After all, how could they know that medical advice has forbidden me to lift more than 20lbs, and my meandering pace is the necessary tonic for the prescribed “light activity” that I am
allowed for the first four weeks. I pause for a moment and take a seat to rest; it is time for a break. I am aware of a slight discomfort at the site of the incision. I rest for a while. Around the corner, a man is shuffling his feet and moving at a slow and arduous pace with the aid of a walker, as he quietly makes his way around the track. To some, he is a random, kind face, not unlike many of the seniors you could see here on any given day. We exchange pleasantries and the gentle smile in his eyes reminds me of his kindness. I’m not sure if he remembers who I am. I had heard of his diagnosis and subsequent decline. An unbearably slow process of decline has lowered his posture and mental capacities, but I remember him when he was a pillar in the community, and a strong, vibrant man. My female walking partner recognizes him as well, and she too is moved by the sight of this once-strong man now transformed into something, well, different. She says to me, “Life isn’t very kind sometimes”. I nod in agreement. It is true that at times, a person you see before you is only a dim reflection of what they once were. Other times, it is the opposite. What once was a shadow of a human being has blossomed into the hopeful life of one who is becoming – a resurrection, you might say. In between the two scenarios, you
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Michael Lokner / Flickr CC can find every combination imaginable. Each human life is a complex thing, you know. Perhaps this walking track is a lot like life. We are all moving about, often in the same direction, but moving at different speeds. Some are walking slowly because of age or injury, and others, because the slower pace is quite simply more to their liking. Some are racing about because of need or want, and others, yes, because it is their preference. I suspect that if we had a two year-old with us, we would be reminded that a quickened pace can also be quite delightful. I guess the curious thing about walking alongside others is that we
often know very little about the circumstances that brought them to where they are. That person, who looks so strong, may not be strong at all; if they are strong, they may not always have been that way. That person, who seems so weak, may not always have been. They say that beauty is only skin deep; well, appearances are only skin deep too. The depth of the full story of who we are is a tale that is rich, varied, and enigmatic; it is etched in between the wrinkles and lines on our faces, and hidden in the crooks of our knees. It is a tale that few of us have truly come to know about each other, and the rest are mere on-lookers to the fullness of where our feet have treaded.
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Perhaps it is best – no matter how little or how much we know of another’s story – that we offer them the grace to respect the pace at which they move. After all, perhaps it isn’t the pace that is so important, but rather, that they have “shown up” and decided to walk another day. While reflecting on the quality of perseverance and the challenges that each of us face, a friend once said to me: “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon; you only lose if you quit”. As always, you can reach me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), in person (the basement level of the Student Services building), by phone (453-5089) or our blog: Blogs.unb.ca/chaplains-corner/. Peace.
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