The start of a new year is usually filled with joy and excitement. Plans, goals, resolutions: there’s a lot of looking forward going on this time of year. Conversely, there’s a good amount of time spent looking back.
For me, these past couple of weeks following the holiday period have been a bit like setting the cruise control to the speed limit and driving in the right lane of the highway. No real rush to get anywhere and lots of other cars speeding past me.
That’s not to say my holidays weren’t great. They were. It’s just that relative to others, I feel I’m in more of a “just happy to be here” mode. Actually, it’s more of a “I’m so blessed to be here” mode.
This past Sunday, our pastor asked us to reflect on five things in 2011 that seriously impacted our lives. At first, I couldn’t think of anything. Then, once I wrote down the first item, I couldn’t stop jotting down dates and events that really affected my life – both positively and negatively – in the previous year.
There were issues with work, both getting mapped to a new organization and then finding myself having to go to New York for work stoppage duty. My wife had some work turbulence of her own, but nothing that compared to the emotional instability of dealing with the trial of the man who caused the death of her cousin.
Those difficult and trying times were offset by the wonderful memories of 2011. We shared a beautiful trip to Mexico with my kids. My daughter made the competitive district soccer team, and her practices and games have been a key part of our week-to-week since. Both of my children continue to excel in the classroom, and I’ve had the opportunity to serve as a tutor at an inner-city school here in Tampa.
There have been ups and there have been downs, but for the most part, my life has been pretty even keel for some time now. And that’s the blessing. That is what I am so thankful for.
What prompted me to reflect on this, and consequently write about it, is an email I received from my high school track coach. It was an email telling us how she’s doing in her battle with cancer. Her tone was gracious and surprisingly upbeat. Yet, I could only image the fear and frustration that comes with overcoming one type of cancer only to be diagnosed with another type of cancer.
As my coach, she taught me how to stay focused. She taught me how to not give up. To tell my mind to keep pushing even though the rest of my body just wanted to stop. To this day, whenever I struggle with laziness to get a task done, or I just feel like throwing my arms in the air and saying, “fuck it!”, I can still hear her voice – that same voice that echoed across the track at Tropical Park in Miami as I came around turn four – compelling me to keep going. “C’mon, Gil!” Her voice is forever etched into my memory, and it has helped forge who I am today.
Now I wish I could do the same for her. Encourage her to keep persevering in the same way she encouraged me.
I know it’s not the same. Running a mile versus taking on cancer. They don’t even compare. My challenge was physical. Her challenge is physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual. All the yelling and cheering in the world wouldn’t make an impact.
There’s only one thing that can. Prayer.
So as I set my cruise control in the right lane and observe all the other cars as they pass me by, all I can say is, “God, thank you for allowing me to be where I am today, and please watch over those embarking on their journeys toward tomorrow.”
We all know someone who’s going through a tough time right now. Be a cheerleader for them by making sure you keep them in your prayers.