Three years ago, out of the blue, I asked my friend Andrea if she wanted to train to run a 5K. She said yes. We bought an app for our phones to help with the training. It was called Couch to 5K. Very aptly named, because I for one have loved nothing more than sitting on a couch and reading for most of my life. The way the program works you start out running for 60 seconds and walking for 90. Gradually, over several weeks the run time is increased to 5, 10 and eventually 30 minutes. The day we ran our first race will go down in my personal history as the day I overcame my battle with physical inertia. The change happened so gradually, that I did not even notice it. It was “little by little, day by day”.
And that’s how change happens.
I could not have done it without my running partner. There is something about giving my word to someone other than myself that makes it sacred. When the alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. I jump and put on my shoes (I sleep in as much of my running clothes as possible to save time) if I know Andrea is waiting for me. But on days when I am on my own, the snooze button gets hit several times and eventually the alarm is just turned off. Change is always easier when we have a partner; someone to encourage us, share the challenge with us and keep us to our words.
And that’s what we need to make change easier and more bearable, someone to walk the path with us.
At the gate of the chemical plant where I worked for three years, there was a billboard with the number of days since the last accident. Every day the number went up by one, was one day closer to our goal of running a safe plant. But accidents did happen and the number would go back to zero. Then our eyes were set on bettering our record. Maybe this time we can go even longer than last time.
And that’s how we deal with setbacks. We re-start the counter and hope to beat our last record.
I heard a story on the radio about a woman in her 100s that realized she had refused a new room at the nursing home where she lived, only because the other resident was an African-American woman. Shocked by her own feelings, she began consciously working on becoming friends with the other woman and was there by her side when she passed away.
Change is an inevitable part of life. The day we stop changing is the day we are done with this life. Maybe the word I am looking for is not change but growth. It is never too late to grow. And growth is not necessarily measured by whether we reach a final destination or not. It happens gradually, imperceptibly along the path. What’s needed is a willingness to reflect often, a desire to try again tomorrow and a faith in God’s mercy and protection.