A few weeks ago I posted about Michael Johnson’s experience at the Boston Marathon. As he approached the finish line he encountered two runners helping a distress runner. He and another runner decided to help as well and the four of them carried the distress runner for several hundred meters towards the finish.
Near the finish the four set him down so that he could finish the marathon on his own.
This encounter was captured on a Twitter account and it became national news. Michael was interviewed by local media as were the other three assistants. Their actions were hailed as a model of Boston Strong, people helping others in a time of need. Michael’s story was worthy of attention.
Upon further reflection, I noticed that the distress runner chose to remain anonymous. He did not want any media attention. He preferred not to be remembered as a “runner who needed help.” Such a choice makes sense, since runners are an independent breed that train and race on their own. I am guessing he would have preferred completing the marathon on his own, without any assistance.
I thought of him when I ran a recent race. I ran in the Cemstone Run For Others 10K about a month ago. I started strong, but at the top of the first hill, I noticed that my heart rate had jumped 40 beats according to my heart rate monitor. (I have a condition called tachycardia in which my heart rate will suddenly jump 30-50 beats during exercise. I have consulted with my physician regarding this and continue to run under his supervision).
My normal practice in this situation is to stop, lie down on the side of the road and within 30 seconds my heart rate drops back to its normal running rhythm.
However this day it did not. My heart rate refused to drop. I tried to relax and will my heart to slow but it refused. 1 minute passed; 2 minutes passed. All the 10K runners had passed me and soon the 5K runners/walkers would be coming. My frustration was all over my face. I decided to push on and see if it would right itself. I made it to a water stop, but my heart rate continued at an accelerated pace. I again stopped and laid down on a green lawn.
As I laid there, one of the volunteers came over to see if I needed help (others had asked before, but I waved them off.) She told me was nurse and she listened to my hurried explanation. She reminded me to take some deep breaths, to calm my mind and to be at rest. Her calm voice settled me down and soon my heart rate dropped back to normal parameters and I finished the race.
That volunteer reminded me that I need to open to receiving care just as much as being open to giving care. The story of the Good Samaritan is told to a Jewish questioner of Jesus. In Jesus’ parable it is the Jewish traveler who is beaten and robbed and so must receive assistance from the “hated” Samaritan. As a Christian I know that I need the mercy and grace of God. I forget that God’s mercy and grace often comes through someone else. Even a race volunteer.
When was a time you received grace and mercy through someone else?
Lord Jesus, give me the humility to receive from others when offered.