Most of us can fairly easily be divided between sprinters and marathoners. Perhaps more accurately, we can be placed on a continuum between sprinters and marathoners.
Sprinters have a particular set of muscles – they’re wound up tight and when they spring into action they just become a blur. Sprinters in disasters are terrific. They leap into the arena and run into the burning building. Perform heroic rescues.
In an emergency they’re the life saving action figures we need. When circumstances get really rough they double down – moving faster with more intensity. When we tell the story of survival the camera is always on them – there they are, the folks dangling on the end of a cord performing a swift water rescue. We cheer them. We applaud them. We think them courageous.
In a catastrophe sprinters can do about ten percent of what’s needed. Ninety percent of recovery – of rebuilding lives and reconstituting community – occurs after the cameras are long done. Long term marathons of cultivation and healing. Holding hands and binding wounds. Deep listening. Finding meaning in suffering. Recreating lives out of remnants. Nurturing a hurting broken world into a functioning state of being.
There’s no photo op for that work. Tending, binding, nursing, cultivating – not glamourous. Until recently we didn’t even call those marathoners heroes. Teachers, nurses, case workers, organizers, social workers, advocates, poll workers, door knockers … the relentlessly focused cultivators of support.
We are in an epic marathon. Requiring endurance. Perseverance. Patience. Grace.
The sprinters are flagging. We see them huffing and puffing. They can’t find the finish line. They never trained for endless endurance. For a race in which the finish line moves further and further into the distance. Shimmering vaguely.
However, some of us DID train for the long game. Endurance is our superpower. Good work for the sake of good work. We endure.
We return again and again to the well of meaning and purpose. And we keep showing up. Because the human spirit is not extinguishable, not by an explosion, nor a hurricane, nor a virus.
We trained for the long distances. Our gaze is focused on the distant point. On the horizon of human wisdom. We are focused on our species-level ability to triumph over the unthinkable.
Breathing. Pacing. Teamwork. Perseverance. Our superpowers.
Marathoners. It’s our time.
*As usual. I wrote this for me and maybe for you too.