A Reservoir of Grace
“Look up!” cried out a lady. She was walking her dog and I was running toward her. I was expecting to see something of the likes of Air Force One, or maybe perhaps some sort of military aircraft flying overhead. But, it was, in fact, just a bird. And not just any bird, but a rare bird. Rare in general. Even more rare for the city.
I ran past the lady, but she kept talking to me. Other runners whizzed past her at a great speed, not even giving her the time of day. I felt awkward and so I stopped, if but only for a minute.
“There are three of them,” she observed. Sure enough, three of these birds began gliding through the air, circling each other, flying fast and low, and then soaring up once again at a high altitude. The lady had interrupted my run and I wanted to promptly pick up from where I had left off. But she would not stop talking. And runners continued to race by, casting their “I-told-you-so” glances at me. But I couldn’t just leave her now.
She began to tell me of her love for birds. How much she appreciates the outdoors; how she loves to simply listen, look, and marvel at the life teeming around her; how she fears that runners miss the gift of nature when they run around the reservoir with their earbuds in. And as we parted ways, I recognized a change take place within me. It was as if the scales had fallen from my eyes and my ears were opened.
As I made my second lap around the reservoir, I noticed yellow flowers growing along the side of the path that I hadn’t noticed before; I heard the water lapping rhythmically against the rocks that I hadn’t heard before; I smelled the fresh fragrance of new spring growth that I hadn’t smelled before; I discovered geese snapping plants with their bills that I hadn’t discovered before; I saw the sunlight scintillating off the water that I hadn’t seen before. I could see. I could smell. I could feel. I could hear. I could appreciate.
And in the distance was Boston College: the pride of Alumni Stadium; the majestic tower of Gasson Hall; the gothic beauty of Bapst Art Library. All of this brilliantly set against the sky as a remarkable university on a hill – a place that has challenged me in unforeseen ways and supported my own development and formation as a person of the world, for the world.
As I approached the lady again, I thanked her. For she had reminded me how to pray. She had recalibrated the very core of my being. When we encounter another human being, they most surely make a claim on us. We are invited into relationship with them, as fleeting as that relationship may be, as lasting as its effects may be. And how sad our world will become when we stop seeing, when we stop listening, when we stop paying attention, when we stop learning from each other.
Before I knew it, what was initially supposed to be a 2 mile run became a 7 mile run. I couldn’t stop; no, I didn’t want to stop my run. The brief exchange with the woman – and my subsequent re-awakening – had given me exactly what I needed to carry on.