featherA few months ago I went for a run and got a very sharp thorn in my shoe. The thorn was so sharp and so long that it went all the way through the sole of my shoe and stuck me in the bottom of the foot.  I had to stop and dig the thorn out. I held onto the thorn while I ran, thinking that once I got home I’d take a picture of it and write a small post about the cruelty of the desert. I was unable to keep a hold on the thorn while I ran. I dropped it and lost it and then promptly forgot all about it until tonight.

As I went for my last run tonight in the Middle East for what is likely to be a long time I thought about my experiences here. I thought about how hard it is to run in the summer heat.  It was about 38 degrees Celsius with about 70 percent humidity tonight. That is really unpleasant. Yet there I was outside running in it. I felt like perhaps I’d won a little game against nature or not “won” so much as tied or forced a draw. The desert hadn’t beat me.

As I contemplated how harsh the desert is, how mean and vindictive, how unforgiving and exacting it can be I saw on the ground in front of me a feather. It was the feather of an Indian Roller. These are beautiful birds with brilliant shades of blue. I kept running for 30 or 40 meters before I suddenly felt like I should collect that feather. I turned around and retrieved the feather. It was then I thought of the thorn I’d lost. I held tight to the feather and managed to bring it all the way home.

I realized tonight as I ran that this is what I hope my children can do with their experiences here in the Middle East and the rest of their lives. I hope they can lose the thorns they collect along the way and keep the small pieces of beauty they find. It felt a little like this place was giving me this feather, this small reminder that no matter how harsh, how unforgiving and how unpleasant there will be beauty and something of worth in our experiences.

So here at the end of one adventure and the beginning of another I pause to be grateful for the journey. I am grateful that there have been no thorns that have pierced too deeply or stung so bitterly that I can not lay them down and appreciate the small beauties and tender mercies of life. I recognize that that ability, to lose the thorns, to see and appreciate the good, comes from something greater than me. It is a gift. Me, I am the guy that keeps running despite the treasure at his feet. It takes a few extra meters before I’m compelled to stop a while and appreciate what is before me.