Training Session

I’m going out for a training session.

I called out the words to the Lovely Lady as I headed for the door again.  She chuckled and reminded me to start my tracking program.  It was a reminder that the training session is actually just this old man going out in a vain attempt to fend off the years.  

The reality is that she may need to know where I am so the ambulance can be directed to the pick-up spot accurately.  I frowned playfully, but I started the program on my smart-phone before I began to trot down the road.

I had just finished the first mile of my three-mile run when I saw them.

QuarterstaffThe gladiators.

They come to the municipal park every Tuesday evening, weather permitting.  Using padded quarter-staffs and blunt wooden swords, along with a few other weapons I couldn’t name, they spar and they dance.

There is instruction.  There is competition.

I almost always hear at least one exclamation of dismay as I run past; one warrior has tapped another in a vital part of his anatomy, bringing the bout to a rapid halt.

I confess I often find myself snickering as I pass these modern day jousters each week.  It is hard to imagine a circumstance in which the skills they are honing so determinedly will be useful.  

There is not much call for swordplay in the workplace these days.

Odd, isn’t it–how we make judgments about people based on their hobbies and leisure time pursuits?  

I have seen those young men–sometimes a young lady or two–seriously attempting to perfect their craft, and I have relegated them to the file I keep in my head labeled insignificant and irrelevant.

I repent.

Tonight, as I ran past that gathering of young people, I realized that they had also noticed me in my nightly rounds.  

They too, had relegated me to a category in their heads.  To my chagrin, they would make that category clear to me on this beautiful, cool evening.

I observed, upon my approach to the grassy area where the group was tussling, a couple of young men, about twenty years old or so, who broke away from the onlookers.  They ran on a tangent toward the path upon which I was running.  

As they started out, one of the young men demonstrated his athletic prowess by running up a tree that was beside his route and flipping over backwards, landing effortlessly on his feet.  Almost without missing a step, he and his companion continued on at a rate of speed which put them on the exercise path directly in front of me.  

Then they did something odd.

Slowing down a little, each of them moved to his own side of the path.  Given the speed at which I was approaching, I had no choice except to either slow down or move into the gap between them.  

I wasn’t slowing down.

As I moved between the two young men, they sped up again to keep pace with me.  The fellow on my left spoke first.

“How far have you run tonight?”

I answered him a little warily, still telling the truth—that I had just completed the first mile of the few I intended to run before stopping.

The other young man jumped in.  “Wow!  You’re still going pretty fast for having already done a mile.”

We bantered back and forth about running speeds and races to be run.  Soon we were almost out of the park.  

The fellow on my right dropped back all of the sudden.

“I’m done,” he gasped and, holding his side, walked back the other way.

The other boy, who would follow him fairly quickly, had one more thing to say.

“We just wanted to give you a little encouragement tonight.  Have a great run!

I hardly had time to thank him before he too, had turned and begun walking back toward the milling crowd of present-day knights errant, now several hundred yards behind us in the park.

I do.  I repent.

I am ashamed.  And, encouraged.  

I had seen them, sort of.  They also saw me, but with keener sight.  

The young men in the park noticed an old man running through on his daily quests to depose the black knight of old age from his steed. 

The old man, for his part, simply glanced their way, sniffed pompously, and dismissed them completely.

Those young men though—they had looked on a kindred spirit who needed help keeping his resolve and his confidence in place.  Unselfishly, they took the initiative to meet his needs.

I have nothing else to say.

Their generosity has left me speechless.

Cups of cool water, shared under the heat of the withering sun, couldn’t have been more timely—or more welcome.

You know, don’t you, that repentance requires one to turn away from wrongdoing and go in the other direction?

Change is coming.

It must.




Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
(I Thessalonians 5:11 ~ NIV)


Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.
(Ralph Waldo Emerson ~ American essayist/poet ~ 1803-1882)




© Paul Phillips.  He’s Taken Leave.  2016.  All Rights Reserved.

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