Monday, February 10, 2014

We came for the walk; we stayed for the fellowship

It always amazes me that we have the ability to connect with complete strangers when we find ourselves in the same situation, whether it be a fellow stranded traveler or someone in line at the grocery store who just happens to be buying your very favorite candy, or maybe someone you see everyday on your way to work.  Regardless, we have a connection to these people on a very human level and for a period of time, we are connected and fully aware of the other as a human being.

 My mom and I found this at Winton Woods park out on the trail as we walked our old dog, Meeko (pictured left) every morning.  We got Meeko when I turned 16 and because Australian Shepherds are working dogs, he needed that daily 6-mile walk to expend his energy.  Jo-Momma walks every day and I join her when I'm off.  We make a point of greeting everyone on the trail, picking up trash and acting as ambassadors to people who have never been to our little piece of paradise.

 Over the course of the past 12 years, we have come to know many of the people who are out there every day, rain/shine/heat/wind/cold and even on holidays and snow days.  There's a few people who we simply get a wave and a nod from and then there are those who will turn around to walk extra miles just to talk with us.  Mostly we stop to chit-chat about the weather, grandkids and the antics of my students while the dogs sniff each other out and enjoy their treats that everyone carries for them. Although we don't know each other's last names, we have a very strong bond.  When we had to put Meeko down, somehow everyone found out in the matter of days and we had cards show up at our house and on our car at the grocery store.  When I had ACL surgery, they all shared my triumph of being able to walk around the loop without needing to rest and then again when I could run the whole thing.  When we don't see someone for weeks, we worry and keep asking around until we find someone who has seen them.   

One of the greatest friends we made is a woman named Lynn and her dog, Lucky--a rescued beagle.  Lynn is in her 70s and is a very slight woman who is just as likely to complain about the heat as she is to put a sweater on Lucky anytime the mercury dips below 50.  Lynn is out there every day, and on nice days, even twice.  She carries a variety of treats for the picky eaters of the group and even carries water and a bowl in case any pooches need a drink.  Lynn has a few resting places that she frequents and sometimes we let Jasper off his leash and he goes tearing across the field toward her and Lucky, startling and delighting them both.  Because I don't get out to the park everyday, Lynn will often give me a hug when she sees me.  While she typically sticks to the paved path, every once in a while, Lynn hikes her walker over the curb and Lucky leads her down the actual road to go on an adventure and see something different than what we normally see everyday. 

This is just what she was doing this past week when the trail was too frozen for a 75 year old woman with a walker and an enthusiastic dog, on the same park road that I've already written about.  She was on the side of the road when snow plows, riding tandem, as they often do for more efficient clearing, hit Lynn.  The power of the walking community became evident immediately.  Within 24 hours everyone in our walking community had heard the news.  Although most of us don't even know each other's last names, we were able to get a hold of each other.  For instance, my mom knew what church one of the women goes to, so she called the church and described her and she got the number and my mom and the other woman went down to visit Lynn a few days ago.  At the time, Lynn was in the second of a series of surgeries that she will have to have, but her daughter was there and absolutely stunned that they showed up.  Lynn always tells her kids that walking at Winton Woods every day is her life, but they didn't understand until that moment when the people that Lynn shares a few brief moments with every morning showed up to support her and show their love in her darkest hour.  Lynn is in really bad shape: she's got four fractures in her back, a broken femur and ankle on one leg and a broken patella and tibia on the other. Her walking days are over. 

Lynn needs her community right now more than ever and this has caused this community to break the boundaries of their relationships, and to leave the park, to find out each other's last names, addresses, phone numbers and what they look like when they're not in their walking clothes.  This group full of the most unlikely of friends has rallied together in the coldest, snowiest winter in recent memory to support one of the members at it's heart.

**While I am very angry that this happened and am so very worried about Lynn pulling through all of her terrible injuries, my heart also goes out to that plow driver.  Who would have expected a little old lady to be in the road on a snowy, icy day?  No matter what the outcome for Lynn, I know that his life will be changed in a very profound way, so as much as I pray for Lynn's healing, I also pray for the heart and soul of that man who must be feeling so much guilt, regret and questions at this point.  I will continue to hope for the recovery of Lynn and for peace to that driver. 

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