I don’t know the man’s name – and am doubtful I ever will. But I don’t need to know his name. His name makes no difference to me. I wouldn’t recognize him if I ran into him on the street, in the grocery, at my kid’s football game. Nor would I recognize him if he were on the nightly news, if his obituary ran in Sunday’s paper, if his daughter was a friend of my own daughter’s.
But. I would know that look anywhere. Anywhere. And it’s one that I hope I don’t ever see again – but, one that I would recognize, and one that I would react to exactly the same way again. Exactly.
About a month ago I was a hundred yards shy of crossing the finish line of a half marathon, when I saw the man in front of me fall to the ground. His knees buckled, and he fell. And runners kept going. Passed him. Stepped around him. Why? I mean I get it – we all want to run that PR, but let’s face it, none of us were competing for the purse. That had been doled out a solid thirty minutes earlier. But still, people sped up and kept going.
Me. I stopped. I put my hand on his shoulder and that’s when he spun to look at me. He mumbled and he tried to stand, but he couldn’t. His body was done and his brain was quickly following suit. Another runner who also saw him fall, came up beside me and together, we tried to get him up and help him cross the finish line – because that’s what I would want someone to do for me. And because that’s what you do. You help your fellow runner finish. But we couldn’t budge him. He was too big, and his body couldn’t offer any help. He kept staring at me, that man whose look I will never, never forget. He was scared. He was embarrassed. But he was thankful.
I stayed with him, the other runner went ahead and sent the medics our way. Once they had him, I finished my race. And I didn’t PR – but it’s OK. Because those five minutes spent on the sideline were far more important than the bragging rights that a five-minute-faster time would have given me.
Today’s post inspired by The Daily Prompt – The kindness of strangers.