As I’ve looked over the list I compiled over the past year of the people who have inspired me, I’ve found a common theme among virtually all of them. Charisma can be inspiring. Grand, heroic gestures can inspire too. But all of my heroes this year inspired me by simply staying the course—being faithful, steady, strong, committed, honest, devoted when no one else is looking, when it’s boring, tiresome—when it’s hard. These inspiring men and women have simply persevered. And one little fella has inspired me by simply taking a breath every day.
Next Sunday, July 26, I’ll be running in my first marathon in San Francisco. I’m excited, but also nervous. I know the run is going to be long and it’s going to be hard. I’ve trained for months now, but in the end it’s still going to boil down to putting one foot in front of the other until the race is done. As an additional source of motivation, I’ve taken a page from former Republican presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee (and this is probably the only page I’ll ever take from him!), and decided to dedicate each of the 26 miles of the marathon to someone who has inspired me. Naturally, every one of my inspirations is on that list, and it should come as no surprise that many of them will be remembered in the miles late in the race. This is when my muscles will be aching, my joints will be sore, when the race will have long ceased being fun. This is when all I’ll be able to think about is stopping, when I’ll be tempted to quit. In those late and lonely miles, I’ll think of these people, and by the grace of God, I will keep on running, just as they have.
Virleshay Gayatin & Amy Foote
Barbara Leen Maycock
I’m inspired by her faithful friendship.
Perhaps the greatest gift a friend can give is her simple presence. I know it’s a cliché but it’s no less true—a friend is there for you when you need her. And at the most meaningful and important moments of our lives this past year, Carol was there. When Barbara first suspected she was pregnant, it was Carol who gave us the pregnancy test—and she was the first of our friends to hear the good news. In the delivery room, when I watched my brave, beautiful wife wracked with labor pains—when I felt so ineffective with my cup of ice chips and banal encouragements, Carol was there counting through the contractions in her trademark matter-of-fact, coolheaded away, helping Babs through. When my hands trembled with joy at my son’s arrival into the world, it was her steady hands that took the camera and captured the memories forever. Carol was there in that first emotionally and physically exhausting week of Elijah’s life. She took our frantic, new-parent phone calls. Each time we panicked and thought “something is wrong” she came rushing over, even though I’m sure she knew there was nothing to worry about. Rather than just tell us that over the phone and attend to her own busy schedule, she’d come right over and reassure us that he was fine. In the weeks and months that followed she continued to be there, to listen to offer, and advice and most importantly to care.
Here’s the thing about being there for a friend: Physical presence is not necessary—“Let’s call Carol,” has been a common phrase in our home this past year. And every time we called, she was always there. And so now that we are on opposites sides of the continent, I believe Carol will continue to be there for us. I hope that, in the same way, we have been, and will be, there for her too.
Mile 12 is dedicated to Carol.
I’m inspired by her steady character
When you think of someone you might describe as a “rock”, you generally don’t think of a fifteen year old girl with a friendly smile and a penchant for the Twilight novels. But I do. When I think of someone who epitomizes a steady hand, someone solid, dependable, someone you can always count on, come what may—a rock, I always think of “J”. Over the years, as I’ve watched her grow from a cute little kindergartner to a bright, young woman, I’ve marveled at “J’s” steady character. She has always been one of the most reliable people I’ve ever known. You can count on her to lend a helping hand—whether it’s playing guitar for church or joint worship, or caring for your infant son. You can count on her put her best into every assignment, study hard for every test, and to bring home the stellar results of that effort. Everything she does, she does top-notch—never second rate. And as I watch her interact with her peers, I know they all recognize that she is a trustworthy friend. In about a week, I’ll be taking an important exam for my Ohio state teacher certification. As I’ve prepared for the test, I’ve kept “J” in mind as my model. I want to put the same kind of thorough effort and steady focus into my studying that she’s put into her studies as my student.
One of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church once said: “The greatest want of the world is the want of men --men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.” Sometimes it’s a fifteen year old girl that best fits that bill.
Mile 22 is dedicated to "J"
I’m inspired by his hard work
To Be of Use
(Every time I think of Rolly Verzon this poem by Marge Piercy comes to mind. I think it expresses more eloquently than I ever could, the kind of man Rolly is and how he's inspired me as he's worked tirelessly for the clinic, the church and the school--for all of us)
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.
Mile 11 is dedicated to Rolly.
Virleshay Gayatin & Amy Foote
I'm inspired by their commitment
It’s one thing to stay aboard a luxury yacht. It’s another thing entirely to stay aboard a small vessel battered by wave after wave, beaten by howling winds, and lashed by the storm. For the former, staying aboard is a no-brainer—who would want to leave? For the latter, staying aboard becomes an exercise in courage and commitment—after all who would want to stay? But it’s a simple fact that someone has to stay—if the boat is to make it to safe harbor. Someone has to weather the storm. And even though it seems to them, I’m sure, that everyone else is jumping ship at the Saipan Seventh-day Adventist School, Amy and Virle have decided to stick it out. Oh, don’t get me wrong—they’re not the only ones who are coming back for another year at SDA. Girlie and Megan among others have signed on for another year too, and Kathleen and Shirley have been stalwarts at the preschool for years. I applaud them as well. But I know that because of their unique and vital positions at the school, and the enormous responsibilities that now rest on their shoulders, Amy and Virle’s decision to stay on was especially crucial, and especially daunting. For all the years that Babs and I stayed in Saipan, staying was always the easy decision. For Virle and Amy, staying has surely been the hard decision. But it’s one they made without flinching. Perhaps it’s because they know that they are not the ones ultimately responsible for bringing the ship safely home. That responsibility rests with One who has been known to soothe the waves, soften the wind, and calm the storm. They know that they—and the school—are safe with Him.
Mile 20 is dedicated to Virle & Amy.
I’m inspired by his devotion to his wife.
Gene is in the blue shirt, second from right. His wife Betty is seated on the couch.
If you thought The Notebook is just a movie, you would be mistaken. Perhaps the cynic in you dismissed the film—and the novel it’s based on--as a sentimental fantasy--a tearjerker tale of ultimate love and devotion that couldn’t possibly exist in real life. Again you would be mistaken. My wife’s Uncle Gene lives a real-life Notebook story every single day as he cares for his wife, Betty, who has been debilitated by Alzheimer’s for a decade or so now. I don’t know Uncle Gene well, but the few times I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him I’ve been struck by his cheerful spirit. From what I understand, that positive attitude hasn’t flagged in the years since his dear wife began her decline, her slow and painful departure from him. For years he tenderly cared for her in their home, until he was physically unable to continue to meet her needs and found it necessary to place her in nursing facility. Now, he visits her every day to feed her and just be near her. He does all this without complaint, without resentment, without showing any signs of faltering in his devotion and care. It seems he considers it his privilege and his joy to care for the woman he’s promised to love in “sickness and in health.” All that’s missing from the story of Gene and Betty Brock is the notebook itself. But who needs that, who needs the Hollywood treatment, and the swelling music, when the love he lives every day tells the story so eloquently.
Mile 14 is dedicated to Uncle Gene & Aunt Betty.
I’m inspired by her honesty.
In order to keep it honest, she was willing to take a beating. And I mean that literally. Tackling probably the most physically demanding role we’ve ever had in REAL Christian Theater as a seventh-grader, it would have been easier—and safer—to protect herself. She could have held back a little, kept back from the flailing arms of her fellow actors, dropped more gently to her knees for the climactic scene. She could have kept the tears in her eyes at bay to avoid the possibility that some classmate in the audience might make fun of her impassioned performance later. But had she done that, the performance wouldn’t have been real—it wouldn’t have been honest. And “Little Sister” is gut-wrenchingly honest. She lays it on the line, and tells it like it is—not just when it’s easy, but instead, especially when it’s hard. And so in this past season’s powerful allegorical redemption skit “Everything”, she hurled herself into the lead role, and endured the sore muscles, the bruised knees, the occasional painful blows, the searing emotion as the price of being honest. And the result was a performance that never failed to move our audiences powerfully—because, thanks to “Little Sister,” the story we told was real.
“Little Sister’s” honesty extends off the stage and into her real life as well. I know I can always count on her not to mince words or pull punches. As she does on stage, so she does in life—she puts herself out there. And for those who know her, the result of her courageous honesty is the same too—they are moved, challenged, and inspired.
Mile 21 is dedicated to "Little Sister"
I’m inspired by his active life.
I assumed we would be talking about the past. When I pulled Dr. John Carlos aside a few weeks ago to get some marathon advice, I figured he’d be settling into his easy chair, thinking back to his bad old days of youth, and plucking out a few pearls of wisdom to share with the young fellow coming up. I mean I knew he was still in great shape and all, but what I didn’t realize is that he’s far from finished with running. A veteran of a dozen marathons, countless triathalons, and other events, Dr. Carlos, at the age 71 is, setting new goals; he’s still got things he wants to accomplish. John is my model for how I want to live the active life I began a few years ago, and like him, I want to do it for my children. John explained to me that just before his oldest son, J (who happens to be my best friend), was born he made a commitment to staying active so that he would have the energy and stamina to play basketball with his kids. And sure enough, he was able to able to stay in the game with all three of his children (even if they were eventually able to beat him). To maintain an active lifestyle over decades requires the same things you need for a distance run—a good steady pace, running smart to avoid injury, eating and sleeping well, and consistent training. For John Carlos, it’s always been about keeping that pace and going the distance. And this next Sunday as I run I’ll remind myself that if he can keep running after 71 years, I think I can run another mile.
Mile 15 is dedicated to Dr. Carlos
I’m inspired by her strength.
I like to think I’m pretty tough. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to grit my teeth and do what has to be done. But I’ve got nothing on my wife. Don’t let those pretty green eyes and small hands fool you. Don’t be distracted by her penchant for afternoon naps and a nice massage. This woman is strong. I always knew this, though I’ve often forgotten it. But this past year I was reminded anew of Barbara’s remarkable strength. I saw it on the day she gave birth. I stood in literal awe, floored by the unimaginable pain in her eyes, as she worked to bring our son into the world. I saw it as Elijah depended on her for his very existence in the first weeks and months of his life. I saw it as she willed herself into the impossibly demanding role of mother—a mother who also had the responsibility of running a school. I saw her strength in her work as principal of the school—how hard she worked to keep the school moving forward. And I finally I saw it in her willingness to lay down the work that had been her passion, her very life for so many years, because she believed a little word called “commitment” was more important than that passion—commitment to her son, to her family. Babs may not be strong enough to stay awake during a movie, but for the things that matter most, she is more than strong enough. As for what makes her so strong? The answer is found below.
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look abut you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. –Isaiah 41:10 (One of Barbara’s favorite texts).
Mile 26 is dedicated to Babs.
I’m inspired by his life
Whatever he costs me, he’s worth it. This, I’ve found, is how it feels to love as a father loves. This little boy inspires me just by virtue of being alive. The late nights, the exhaustion? Worth it. The diapers, the baby food, the countless expenditures that all add up—all worth it. Leaving Saipan, our beautiful home for eleven years so his grandparents can know him, and Barbara can spend more time with him? For him it was worth it. His cheerful toothy grin that makes me smile, his anguished cries that break my heart, the warm feel of him cradled in my arms. I’m inspired because as I look at him, and realize he’s worth it, I’m reminded that my Father looks at me and feels the same.
Mile 25 is dedicated to the Little Feller.