Two quotes are running through my mind. One is “Love like crazy,” from one of my favorite country songs. The other is “Thank you for hills and the strength to climb” — I don’t know who said that first, but I like it.
Recent events have gotten me thinking about what’s important and what isn’t.
Two concepts often fight for priority rights in my mind (maybe in yours, too): people and things.
We all have things we love. I love my bow and arrows. I love my floppy sun hat, the quilt that my friend Hillary made for me, and the smell of old books. Activities also count as things — I love running. Gardening. Reading. Archery. I could fill a whole blog post with that list.
Things are good. They give us the means to fill our time in fun and productive ways. They give us goals. They fuel passion and ambition. Without things, life would be pretty dull.
But things have their limits. My floppy sun hat, although it protects me from sunburn, doesn’t make me laugh until I’m doing a weird shrieky cackle. Gardening may give me food, but it won’t give me a bear hug. My most recent archery shoot was fun, but not because of the way I shot.
It was because of the people there. Those people made what would have just been an afternoon slinging arrows in dusty, blistering heat into an enjoyable experience that I would do all over again.
People make life. But how often do people get put aside because of things? I’ve often turned down invitations or put off calling someone because I “had to” do this or do that. I’m not saying we need to constantly surround ourselves with people — pssst, I’m an introvert — but seriously, what’s more important: washing dishes (chores totally count as things) or calling a friend to wish him a happy birthday?
I know you’re thinking, “What about the things that make us better people — the things that smooth our rough edges and help us to be great friends, spouses, parents, etc.?” And I would agree; there are plenty of things that do this. I’m thinking especially (surprise, surprise) of running.
Running does make us better people. It makes us healthier and happier. It makes me frankly easier to live with. But it does more than that. To borrow from a theme of one of my favorite writers, Kristin Armstrong, running prepares us. Tackling hills, negotiating gnarly trails, sweating through the last miles of a difficult long run – all of this mentally strengthens us to handle challenges elsewhere in life with grace and aplomb.
But rather than dilute the “people priority,” I think things like running strengthen it. How many of us run, as stated above, to be better spouses, parents, etc.? How many of us start doing something because someone special introduced us to it? Growing a garden is fabulous, but what if we didn’t have anyone with whom to share our freshly-grown vegetables? And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t one of the best parts about all that strength we get from our chosen “thing,” running or otherwise, using it to help other people? To share their loads?
Loving things is okay. Just as long as you don’t forget to love people.