Thursday, December 3, 2009

In Peace

If a man does not keep pace with his companions,
perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
Let him step to the music he hears,
however measured or far away.
Henry David Thoreau

I’m in the half-marathon clinic now and pacing plays a big role.  I only vaguely understand what it is but I can tell you it’s important.  I now have a number.  Nobody knows my name but by golly, I have a number.  This number measures how fast I go at a speed that’s not a crawl nor an escape and I THINK measures how fast I can finish 10kms.  Or is it how fast I can run consistently through each kilometre?  Anyway, we’re all divided into groups based on this pace when we run together.

I sort of feel like I belong to this group.  I'm not sure why I don't fully.  Maybe because I'm generally not a group girl.  In school I usually floated between the cliques and these days, though I have lots of friends, I'm usually interacting one on one.  Except for my book club, but there's generally a fair bit of sugar and sometimes alcohol to help me along.

When we run, our footsteps can all be in unison the whole time; a very cool effect that propels me along quite nicely.  I actually feel like a real runner then, somehow.  I start to feel part of the group and it feels pretty good.  Sometimes, though, it's a real struggle for me to keep up and I start thinking something's wrong with me; my technique is off or my cellulite is just not aerodynamic. 

The whole experience makes me think of L'Arche, of the experience of people with developmental disabilities in our society.  I'm sure you can figure out the race metaphor in relation to our culture (god, I love a good metaphor).  The idea of keeping pace, having to keep pace, not falling behind, stepping up to the start line to being with.   In a race, you are either keeping pace or pushing ahead of the group.  They may tell you that you should run your own race, not compare yourself to others, but it's tough in a crowd.  And no one wants to be last.

For people with developmental disabilities in our culture, getting to the start line can be a lifelong challenge, let alone running alongside or finishing.  It makes me wonder where we're all running to, really.  What do we hope for at the other end?  If it's happiness and acceptance and belonging then why do some people get left behind or not allowed in the race at all?

 I read Thoreau's quote years ago and it's stayed with me.  I suppose we all march to the beat of our own drummer, but people with disabilities even more so.  In L'Arche this is a celebration, stemming from the belief that each of is of unique and sacred value and has gifts to offer the world.  People with developmental disabilities can't keep pace with the rest of us in the race that we're running.  Their journey is one of spontanaeity and presence and openness and heart, not competition.

What a gift that is, really.  I wish our society could do a better job of seeing this.  I wish more of us would choose that path and, instead, keep pace with people with disabilities rather than the reverse.  What would our lives and journies be like then?

By the way, Pace in latin means 'in peace'.  Nice.

Good websites: