You have to climb a hill to reach our sweet abode. It’s a paved driveway, but steep. Like the kind that tugs the gears of our all-wheel drive vehicle when we hit just-that-spot of incline.
This hill, plus a valley, plus one more sharp slope, are all that lie between us and the Good Neighbors. Mary, (referenced here over the years in connection with her abundant garden) is one half of the Good Neighbors living next door. And being more like, Incredibly Amazing Neighbors, they’ve given Jeb an open invitation to freely roam between our house and theirs.
On one of Jeb’s recent visits, after fueling up on hearty snacks provided by Mary, he was ready to return home. I get the call. It’s Mary and Jeb in her front yard.
“Ok, Jeb’s here and ready to head back to you. He’s going to try to beat his record. Can you set the stopwatch?”
The last time we played this game, Jeb ran home in around three minutes. Not bad for two steep hills in flip flops.
“Yeah, I can set the stopwatch here in just a second.”
“He’s going to try to beat his three minute time. So if he gets 2:59 or under, I’ve agreed to offer a cash prize.”
“Hmm. Ok. Lucky boy…I’ve got the stopwatch ready.”
“Jeb can hear you on my speaker phone, so you say the word and he’ll take off.”
“Alright then. Ready…set…go!”
Somewhere on the other side of the valley, Jeb sets in motion, his growing ten-year old legs leaping down sheer terrain. The seconds on the stopwatch roll.
At 1:45, I wander out to the top of our driveway to see if I can hear any sign of Jeb’s approach. At 2:04, I’m shocked to see him cresting the hill in front of me.
He is very close, though he is not running. Rather, his arms dangle at his sides, nearly scraping the pavement like an orangutan. His back is curved in slight defeat, his flip-flops advancing him forward in exhausted ascent.
He does not realize how fast he’s made the journey. He has no idea how close he is to easily achieving the goal.
“You’re at 2:04! Come on!” I shout with enthusiasm.
His face looks to me, brightening. “2:04?” he heaves.
“Yes, you’re so close and plenty of time. Come on! You can do it! Get to the steps and you’re at the finish!”
Like a flipped switch, or lit flame, Jeb’s exhaustion takes an instant turn, motoring him across the final stretch and landing him at the bottom of the stairs. 2:34.
“2:34! You did it! Right on, Jeb!!”
Never one to miss a chance at theatrics, Jeb proceeds to collapse on the bottom step, panting dramatically, and punctuating his triumph with sportsman-like spits toward the lawn.
It matters not to me whether Jeb makes it home in two minutes or twenty. But I saw a little something in this beat-your-record exercise.
We all have challenges to face on our own. Sometimes, we don’t even realize how far we’ve come along our journey. The trek can be strenuous and long. Ofentimes a bit inspiration is all we need.
As we make our way, it really can make a difference when we get just a little boost of encouragement.