I first saw him three years ago while on vacation. “Well, there goes another nut running (literally) for public office,” I thought. Maybe he wanted to be this island’s mayor, or police chief or dogcatcher.
He looked to be a bit north of 70 years old as he was crushing the five-mile long bike and running trail laid down parallel to the roadway. Clipping along at a steady and healthy pace, he would wave, flash an enthusiastic thumbs up and offer an infectious smile to the passing cars with as much a joyful welcome as if we were all his long-lost grandchildren.
The hand-held sign he carried was my clue that he was running for something more than exercise. I only saw the blank side, but I couldn’t help noticing how much he was into his advocacy.
Sometimes he would twirl the sign. Sometimes he would pump it over his head like a weightlifter. Sometimes he would move it around his body with such energy I had to change my mind. He must be selling something and was working on a commission. Poor guy. He should be enjoying his retirement.
Two days later I saw him again. He was up to the same antics. This time my mounting curiosity caused me to slow down enough to make sure I could read that sign he was so passionately promoting.
It contained one word: “Love.” That’s all. “Love!” This guy. Running his heart out. Waving and smiling like we were all his closest friends. Sharing his hope, without being intrusive or offensive. I felt it. From a stranger. And it’s message and the messenger’s joy stayed with me long after the vacation was over.
When I saw him again, just a couple of weeks ago while vacationing in the same spot, I was excited. He had kept at it. He was preserving the faith. He hadn’t lost his luster or his zeal. This time his sign read: “Brave.”
He knew what we needed. As I stood a little taller and ran a little stronger on my journey through life.
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