A few weeks have passed since we became Spartans, and I still get teary when I watch videos or look at photos. I’ve had plenty of time to reflect, and despite the fact that this is less of a well-thought-out blog post and more of a glorified list of random thoughts that popped into my head, I decided I should get it all “on paper” so I can look back and gather a little strength and inspiration on those days when I’m running low. So please bear with me and if you’re motivated by it too, that’s an added bonus 🙂
First, the Spartan experience is way more than getting from point A to point B… it’s about everything in between. It’s about pushing yourself to be better than you once were – mentally, physically, spiritually. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and being present even when you don’t feel prepared. It’s about caring for others and making memories with friends and family. And it’s a unique kind of FUN!I didn’t take many photos or videos. That’s tricky for me, because I always attempt to record every detail. But more than that, I knew I needed to be fully present that day… to bask in the beauty of the scenery, appreciate profound nature of our adventure, and to catch all the little moments through my own eyes, not the camera lens. It was less like “running a Spartan race” and more like having the best VIP spectator tickets in the world. So I’m extra grateful for those who captured the day on film!For all my pre-race worrying, it never occurred to me to be concerned about literally putting him into the hands of veritable strangers. I was far more worried about him tripping and breaking his own arm than about any kind of contraption they’d use to hoist him 20ft in the air. I was more anxious about whether or not we packed enough snacks and water to sustain him for 5 miles than about watching him climb precariously across their backs. Those men (and women) are willing and able to trust others with their lives and have put their lives on the line for others, and it was very natural to trust them.They worked hard to keep Ryder safe (just like they do with any athlete), but they didn’t patronize him. In their eyes, he wasn’t just a kid playing Spartan. He was one of the guys… a wounded warrior just like them. They sought his opinion, included him in discussion, and never doubted his ability or bravery. It was a team effort, and every time he smacked that bell, it was just as much their victory as his. I’m confident that this was not a special circumstance or a show they put on just for our sake. It’s just what they do. It’s who they are, and it’s part of what makes Operation Enduring Warrior so powerful. The wounded veterans they empower aren’t just statistics, news stories, or souls to pity. They’re treated as individuals. Their strengths are utilized and their weaknesses vanish as they realize they’re stronger than they thought they were.When tragedy strikes, we tend to turn inward. Reluctantly, we learn to accept help while focusing on recovery, and after a while it’s easy to quit looking for ways to help others in return. This particular group of people has learned that the best way to slay their own demons (which are bound to rise again and again) is to help someone else conquer theirs.
Their words are (figuratively) loud – they are always quick to encourage and uplift. But their actions are even louder. They didn’t just cheer Ryder on from the comfort of their computer screens. They sacrificed time, talents, and treasures to make the trip to Tahoe to show him that anything is possible when you set your mind to it and align yourself with good people who can help. In the days since the race, I’ve used our team as an example many times, reminding the boys that we never saw them demand to be first or get upset when someone was faster than them, etc. They served as an incredible example to look past our own selfish noses and be intentional about finding a way to support someone else or lend a helping hand.#TeamRyder also reminded me why I’m so passionate about sharing our story. Everyone loves to share the happy stuff. It’s easy to talk about the successful moments when everything is polished to perfection and turns out just the way we planned, or the warm-fuzzies when we’re surrounded by loved ones and everything is all rainbows and glitter. But when we are courageous enough to share the reality that sometimes tarnishes our Facebook Status-worthy existence — those times when we feel isolated, hurt, angry, or afraid — when we’re honest about how our perfect plans came crumbling down around us under circumstances we couldn’t control, someone always comes out of the woodwork and says, “Thank you for sharing… I thought I was the only one!” And that’s when we have the opportunity to wrap our arms around them and say, “We’ve been there. You’re not alone. We’re gonna get through this together.” This time, they did that for us… they’ve been there, and we got through it together.Confession time: Ryder still hasn’t mastered shoe-tying (partially because it’s really hard, and partially because he’s a wiggly boy who can hardly sit still long enough to say the word “shoe”). But the truth is, I’m not entirely sure that was God’s objective when he sent Norbie (and the rest of the gang) into our lives. Now and forevermore, Ryder will have a unique selection of friends he can call when Mom and Dad just can’t relate… cheerleaders who will be in his corner when he needs a little encouragement that only certain people can give. What an incredible gift!Social media is a tricky beast. It can be a time-sucking, joy-stealing, bad-news-dealing monster. But every now and then, it can be used to bring a random smattering of people together to provide support and encouragement and love that changes their lives forever. I’ve seen it happen with a group of parents whose children are living with the same condition Ryder has, and it happened again to form #TeamRyder. It’s a story that can never be fully told to those who aren’t living it, and a gift I will never take for granted. Dear #TeamRyder,
For the umpteenth time (because I could never say it enough), thank you. Our time together in person was short but incredibly sweet, and I can’t wait until we meet again for some more mud, sweat, and tears. We are thinking of and praying for each of you more often than you know.
With love and gratitude… AROO!***Did you miss the beginning of the story? Catch up on part 1 and part 2.***