A shout out to Allen! I hope I’m spelling his name correctly.
He is my senior by a number of years, I am guessing, but he is still running…and running…and running. Every day in fact.
You may have seen him sometime along the waterfront, chugging along at his own pace on his way to the flagpole and back. I don’t know him, though we just met. Nonetheless I am awed and humbled by him.
There were times during the shutdown and after, when I could barely walk twenty yards because of an excruciating back problem. When I progressed enough that I could tolerate the few steps it takes to walk my dog three-hundred feet through the tunnel to the lake, I sometimes saw Allen’s silhouette running slow and steady against the blue-water background. Seeing this older gentleman running fiercely against the currents of age, I would curse the wind because I was feeling so battered — or he inspired me to keep moving. Sometimes both at the same time.
Shift gears to a recent Sunday afternoon. My younger friend Lisa, came through the door in tears. She had been stopped at a train intersection and parked in a line of cars when she witnessed a skunk that had been hit by the train. The poor animal was in shock and struggling for life, a grim and bloody scene. It shook and collapsed, withered and pawed, life draining out of it too slowly for mercy. My friend was wracked by compassion as she watched another creature suffer, even a skunk — a beautiful quality of her character.
Suffering and death happen daily, hourly, even minute by minute and most of us rarely witness it. More often than not creatures endure the struggle alone. Lisa being there, and her tears, honored that unfortunate skunk. Because she was willing to look and behold it in her compassionate heart and mind, even from a distance, she honored it.
Aging, struggle, life, and death are the crucible within which all of us dwell. They are the centripetal forces with which we interact and that cause us to change, grow, or wither. Some become misshapen and cynical inside, like those that publicly laughed and mocked the attack on Mr. Pelosi. Others get tender and host compassion. When we get battered, some will crumple and quickly resign. Others become bitter and recalcitrant. Some will heave a shoulder forward and keep moving, a few will even cast a smile as they do.
Allen smiles as he runs. On a wet nasty, cold, gray Monday morning I saw Allen’s unmistakable silhouette chugging up the sidewalk toward dog and me sitting on “our” bench. I had not seen him in awhile and watching him reminded me of how far I have come since the shutdown and the most crippling days of my back condition. I smiled with gratitude. Then something unexpected happened. He passed us as we sat on the bench watching him jog, turned around at the entrance to the tunnel, and came back headed toward Long Pier. Then he stopped, turned and asked, “Are you Cam Miller?” I confessed to it. He took off his glove, shook my hand, and thanked me for my Finger Lakes Times columns. We now shared a mutual admiration circle.
Then, as we chatted briefly, he said, “I’m a friend of Lisa’s.” Circle complete.