I went out for a run this morning in a strange city. There is a beautiful walkway next to a river which was pretty much deserted in the early morning except for people setting up tables and chairs outside of their restaurants. I was struggling with the heat and humidity and the fact that I needed to go five miles in order to meet my goal for my half marathon training.
I was already arguing with the voice in my head that was telling me to slow down and walk. I turned up my music in order to distract myself and then I noticed a man sitting in a lawn chair facing the walkway. At first glance, all I saw were his dirty khakis pants, a light blue windbreaker, and a well-worn baseball hat. He saw me approaching and quickly looked down.
Good morning, I said loud enough to be heard over my feet slapping the pavement. He looked up as if surprised to be acknowledged. I continued along the walkway another half mile before I had to turn around.
I had switched to an audiobook in order to further distract myself from thoughts of quitting my run when I came back to the man sitting in the chair. He was watching me. I could see his face clearly. His skin was dark, wrinkled, and scarred. He put up a hand. He was holding something. Oh no, I thought he wants to sell me something. I stopped and he handed me a rose made from a palm frond. “Here,” he said, take it and fly with it.” I said, “Are you sure?” “Yes,” he said.
Take it and fly with it.
This was such an unexpected gift. The rose and the sentiment. Getting this gift from a complete stranger felt like an acknowledgment. This man had seen my struggle and decided to tell me to fly.
This is what grace is, the encouragement we need coming from the most unexpected people, in the most unexpected places that give us the energy we need to fly.