Winter returned with a vengeance last week. I was supposed to do a trail run with a friend on Wednesday (the first full day of spring), but could not even get out of our driveway. Our road was not plowed and the road leading to our road wasn’t either. Ugh! This was after a few teaser days when the crocus bloomed, the wild garlic sprouted and the grackles came back from their winter range. I love to hear that grackle-y ka-ching noise they make from the tree tops. Now, I am not typically averse to running in sketchy weather, but this snowstorm was too much for even me. The snow lasted for over 40 hours, and ruined spring’s highly anticipated appearance.
A trail race that I was scheduled to do on Saturday became a road race due to snow blanketing the original course.
During the hours I was snowbound, I rested. I napped, I cooked and I read. I happened to come across an article by Beth Moore that intrigued me. Beth Moore is an interesting person. She is an American evangelist who focuses her ministry on helping women lead their lives according to Christian principles. Ms. Moore and I share different viewpoints on many topics, but there are several topics we agree on. She promotes contemplative prayer, or mindfulness, which is actually one of the oldest Christian practices, but unusual for an evangelical to advocate. She has no problem teaching men, anathema to conservative Christians, who believe that only men should have leadership positions in the church. One of her more controversial (to evangelicals) precepts is that Catholics are Christians too! But perhaps her most daring action is to have called out conservative Christian (male) leaders for their support of Donald Trump, tweeting “Try to absorb how acceptable the disesteem and objectifying of women has been when some Christian leaders don’t think it’s that big a deal.” This stance caused her to lose supporters, but she remained true to her principles.
The quote from Ms. Moore that initially piqued my interest was this, “Something down the road depends on our present stretch of pavement. ” As a runner, how could that quote not interest me? I have found this to be true every time I have trained for a race. If I want to run across 26.2 miles of pavement tomorrow, I had better train to go long distances today. Ms. Moore, of course, was not referring to running, but the concept is the same. I am a firm believer that what we do today counts. What we do today lays the foundation for our tomorrows. If we are undisciplined today, we may not be able to accomplish our goals in the future. This applies not only to running, of course, but to other parts of our lives.
I believe this concept is especially relevant when we deal with children. In another life, I was a science teacher. I loved teaching with all my heart. I wasn’t a good teacher when I first started, but at least I was smart enough to pay attention to some wonderful mentors who were patient and generous with their guidance. There is no “secret” to being a good teacher, but you have to lay a good foundation in relationships that you build with students, or you will have a rough (probably short) career. You have to make sure you start on the correct section of pavement.
I always started the first day of each year with a challenge activity for students. In one activity students were required to build an “egg catcher” from 10 sheets of paper and a meter of masking tape. The egg catcher had to sit on the floor and prevent a raw egg from breaking when dropped from the ceiling. Extra credit ensued for any group whose egg emerged from the process unscathed. We talked about why some devices worked and some did not. We discussed how their devices could be improved. Then we cleaned up the mess.
This taught the students to work together in a team, to be resourceful, to solve problems. It taught them that we are going to have fun, but we are going to think about the inherent science in our activities. It taught them to clean up after themselves, that it is OK to mess up sometimes, and that our ideas can usually be improved on. It started us on the right road for the year.
I wish I had this quote emblazoned on a poster in my house years ago, and that I had paid more attention and been more aware when my own children were little. I wish I had thought more about my present stretch of pavement when I was a young mother.
Every parent looks at their children and wishes they could have done a better job (I think. Maybe it’s just me!) I often wish I had been more patient, more attentive, more generous, more present.
I have many stories about my kids’ childhoods, but here is a poignant one that I still remember 20 years after the fact. One year on Mothers’ Day my husband was working overtime. He had gone to work early that Sunday morning. My oldest son was already out of the house, so just my two youngest sons were home. They were probably a pre-teen and a teenager. I decided to go birdwatching while they were still asleep. My youngest son got up and, without realizing that I wasn’t home, made oatmeal pancakes for me for Mothers’ Day breakfast in bed. He took them into my room, saw that I was gone, and ate them himself. All alone. When I got home and he told me what had happened, my heart just broke in two! I still can’t forgive myself 20 years later. I wish I had that stretch of pavement back, but it’s too late.
As we get older, and the pavement ahead of us shortens, I think we have a greater ability to pay attention to our present stretch of pavement. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the stresses of managing a young family on a shoestring budget any longer, but I am more patient, more calm and generous with my grandchildren than I ever was with my own kids. There is a Pennsylvania Dutch saying that goes something like this, “We get too soon old and too late smart“. Children are like mirrors: they reflect what they see. If they see compassion, nurturing and kindness, that is the type of person they will grow up to be. Isn’t that what our society needs? It all depends on your present stretch of pavement!
I am also linking up with Char at Trekking Thru. Check out some moving inspirational blogs here.