Sunday, December 1, 2013

A choice to dance.

May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed

~ Lee Ann Womack

I know for sure that it was twenty four degrees at least two hours before I saw him. I saw it clear as day on my dashboard with the little icicle icon beside it which is, I suppose, the car manufacturer's way of telling you that it's cold as hell. That said, I didn't need an LED icicle to tell me that. That sensation of seven million tiny shards of frigid glass pressing into my cheeks as I unlocked the door to get behind the wheel was message enough. It was cold as hell.

I kept telling myself that it would be okay since I'd be moving. Cold always feels more brutal when you're standing in one place and, on this day, I knew that I wouldn't be doing that. With that orange icicle light in my view I decided to see it all as a positive. Better to be running in the cold-cold than in the hot-hot. Yes. Better that.

And once I got to the start line and got moving, it dawned on me that cold-cold is different than just regular old cold. Cold-cold causes feet to turn numb and fingers to burn. And even after running for two miles, it wasn't much better. But I shifted my mind away from that and focused on the surroundings. The happy people and the friends who, like me, had trained their bodies to be out there on this cold-cold day.

Two miles turned into ten miles. And, yes, my feet thawed out and my hands were protected by both gloves and those artificial hand warmer thingies. My cheeks felt like they'd been stripped with hot wax and my legs were officially tired. I wasn't sure if it was the cold, the distance or both. Either way, I was wishing for this to be a ten mile race instead of a thirteen mile one. At that moment, that's what I was thinking. Thinking that, specifically, it sucked that I had three more miles to go.


But then I saw him. As my tired legs approached a dirty underpass, I saw him. A mound of nappy fleece blankets over his shoulders and a soiled skull cap partially covering his unruly hair. His pants were pooling around his ankles and ripped at the bottom from being ill-sized and thus walked upon. There he stood, hopping up and down on the edge of the curb.

In the shadows behind him were other mounds of people. They were leaning with backs against the metal gate erected by the city or curled into fetal positions on top of shabby cardboard boxes. A shopping cart was filled to the brim beside one and most of the others just had plastic trash bags holding what little they owned. Another woman was pacing back and forth near that fence. Her lips were ashen and her body movements were jerky. Even though she was talking loud, it was clear that it wasn't to any of the others but instead the cacophony of voices in her own head.

But in the forefront of it all was him. Popping up and down like a human pogo stick with the biggest, warmest smile on his face. Shaking his body and dancing like no one was watching. Hands not cupped for money but instead clinging to the blanket strewn over his narrow shoulders.


No. He didn't have a sign or a loud clanging cymbal. No cheeky poster or funny cowbell either. Just one man standing out in the cold-cold who'd made up his mind to celebrate others in the midst of his own storm. A deliberate action to get up and walk out to the edge of that street, if only to encourage another.

And he did. He encouraged me so much. He did.

I drove past there yesterday to see if I'd see him. To maybe, I don't know, offer to bring him a meal or leave him some gloves. But like many outdoor makeshift shelters, the one he was in that day was already closed and swept clean. No mounds against the metal roll-out fence or mumbling woman raging against her own schizophrenic machine. Nothing but cars and exhaust and cold.

Wait. Cold-cold, I meant.

There is a world of people with a world of problems out there. And, no, I don't think they make my own concerns insignificant. But they can serve as an example of perspective in how to view them. Is it a problem? Or is it a situation? Is the glass half empty? Or is it half full? Do I sit it out? Or do I dance?

That man chose to dance. Which makes me want to dance, too.

Happy Sunday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . one of my favorite songs.


  1. This: "There is a world of people with a world of problems out there. And, no, I don't think they make my own concerns insignificant. But they can serve as an example of perspective in how to view them."

    Those are the wisest words I've heard in a long, long time.

  2. I often think to myself that I don't ever want my problems to rule my life. It isn't always easy to keep from spiraling out of control! That, to me, is when life is no longer fun.

    Great race report and congratulations on finishing your first half marathon!!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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