I love to run, but I detest feeling cold. So last Saturday, I went to our local Vaughn Center, plunked down two dollars in quarters pilfered from our family coin jar and exchanged them for the privilege of running the track.
Six times around makes a mile. It's really not hard at all. Unless you are Marvin.
I don't know if that is his name, but that's what I'm going with. He looked like a Marvin, a rather nostalgic name befitting a man who is most probably in his seventies, wrinkly skin on his dark-skinned face, still broad-shouldered, still built like the athlete I suspect he once was. He wore chinos and a black polo top.
When I spoke with him, I didn't ask him his name. It was enough for me just to approach a stranger. Many people don't know this about me, but I'm a real introvert. Big groups terrify me and meeting strangers . . . don't even get me started. But this man did something that was so massively impressive, I had to work up the nerve to tell him the truth. And I did. I thanked him, straight out, for inspiring all of us that day.
Marvin walked at a complete 90 degree angle. He used the rail around the second floor track as a guide because, obviously, he really didn't have a lot of clearance to see far ahead. He would stop a lot. He would stand at the rail and watch the basketball and volleyball players below make three-pointers or spike the ball over the net.
I imagined him fifty years before. A great player, someone with promise, maybe a scholarship to college or the captain of his high school team.
Then something happened along the way. Was it a car accident? Years of hard work stacked on top of each other? An illness winning the war on his body?
So I asked him, after thanking him, if it was painful to walk. Because it looked like it was, and he shook his head and said, "Oh yeah. My back, my lower back." He was sitting on the bench alongside the track when I talked with him. I figured I had one more question before he thought I was a nut, so I asked him what I really wanted to know: What motivated him to come out here and go through all this pain?
His eyes had a fierce light of goodness. He stared right at me and said, "I've got to try. I've just got to keep on tryin'."
I thanked him again. It was one of those moments where I felt like I'd been touched by an angel. One human being sharing with another about courage, life, determination.
Michele Kelly is CEO and Co-founder of K+L Storytellers, a brand storytelling and content company passionate about helping middle market companies scale through story.