Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Place

I just finished my latest running race a 10 km event through the Beach area of Toronto that benefitted an outreach program for families who are having difficulties making ends meet at Christmas time.
 I experienced a new challenge during this race: black ice. Over 700 runners were crammed like sardines so this danger was extremely challenging at the beginning of the race when you could not see it until you were right on top it. Thankfully I survived unlike one unfortunate lady who had to walk back injured to the starting and meet her disappointed family.  I do not think June has ever had snow in Mississauga so I can cross this worry off my list for next year`s Ratanak International walkathon.
 A friend asked me "for a 10 km do you just get out of bed and show up?" I guess he was referring to the fact I have ran 42.2 km races in the past.
 Each race no matter the distance poses challenges unique to the event.  Physically I feel I may be coming down with something and sweating as I ran through a steady drizzle with my lungs burning made for a tougher morning than I or my friend could have predicted.
 This came to a head at the 7km mark.  Thanksgiving was celebrated last Thursday in the United States. In three weeks both Canada and the U.S. will celebrate Christmas.  As I was not having an enjoyable run I thought of the act of running a race. I thought of how many people I know who are suffering physically and how the pain they suffer from affects every area of their lives, and they could only dream of being able to run. I then thought of people in other Countries who maybe able to run physically, but social problems such as war, poverty, and exploitation would not allow them to set aside a Sunday morning for a race. 
 Thinking of others far less fortunate made me grateful for the physical and economic blessings I have experienced in my life.  The last 3 km`s became bearable, and low and behold (for the few friends who always ask) I finished in a very surprising time of 43 minutes. 
 Lately I have  heard a song that is played much around Christmas.
 Do they know it`s Christmas? Some of the lyrics really  struck me.
 "Do they know it`s Christmas time at all?"  I thought about the ones who rarely leave my thoughts: the exploited children in Cambodia. Sadly they probably do know when Christmas is approaching as they are probably seeing more customers from the affluent part of the world taking advantage of their Christmas Holidays to go overseas and consuming their Countries  product (children.)
 "The greatest gift you`ll give this year is life."  These words are so true for this year or for any year.  What is a richer gift to give someone than the chance for life?
"And the Christmas bells that ring
  Are the clanging chimes of doom
  Well tonight, thank God, its them instead of you."
 If I am honest I see the truth in these lyrics as well.  I have heard Brian McConaghy explain the number of times these girls are abused in a night multiplied over a year.  Yes I do thank God that I have never faced such a life, and I am grateful for a chance to help some leave this life.
 This latest writing is from some of my thoughts I wrote down on a Sunday morning in April 2012.
 I started putting it on my computer November 20 which my calendar tells me is Universal Children`s day according to the U.N. Again I ask myself a rhetorical question. Do the children being exploited realize there is a day set aside for them? 
 At the time of the later writing I was training for the 2012 Toronto Marathon. I ended up running 28 miles in distance in a time of 3 hours 48 minutes for this particular training run.  It was pouring rain on this day, my Daughter Isabella thought I was crazy, and when I ran by a deserted golf course I wondered about this myself.
 Sometimes things are coming our way when we least expect it.  I wonder, if I did not run this day would these words have came to me?  Possibly at a later date, or was this a test of faith with a reward waiting that I could not possibly for see?  One way or another I will never know.
 The ravine I run in has four signs that warn me to never leave the trail.  In the six years of training for marathons my feet have never once left this trail.  Yet many times my mind and thoughts are far from this trail.
I shared these words with a group of friends who liked them so now I will share them with you, with some examples of how true, how profound they were that day.  And how I see these words ringing true to me now and I believe for the future.
 The Place
 There is a place that I know
 That mortal men should fear to go
 It is a place of depravity and shame
 A place whose leader first enticed Cain
 The children who are kept in this place
 Suffer much disgrace
 They are held against their will
 And beaten and made to lie still
 This is a place that should be dark
 Yet I see a tiny spark
 A ray of hope in this domain
 One day the light will surely reign
 I am called to run this race
 And this is where I see God`s face
 I stumble often He picks me up
 I know this place it is my cup
 The giant`s voice tells me I am weak and small
 One day I believe this giant will fall
 This giant feeds on fear and wrath
 One day this giant will be snapped in half
 The giant is an awesome beast
 The children are its favourite feast
 The place I see I hate to go
 Yet something draws me this I know
 Cain was the first murderer.  He is the first in a long seemingly never ending list of men who listen to the voice they should ignore.  Cain murdered his brother.  Many men now a days are trying to destroy the spirits of little children as they selfishly take away their innocence, what they do not realize is that in the process they are destroying themselves.
 Are there darker places on Earth than the mind of the person who abuses children?  Is there a darker place then the lives of these very children?  In my very privileged and sheltered life I
have not encountered any.
 St Francis of Assisi "All the darkness of the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle."
 Two documentaries I have watched on young girls forced to work as prostitutes had a theme that really took me by surprise.  HOPE was this theme.  I was amazed as in both documentaries the girls were talking of future dreams.  They had hopes for meeting young men who would accept them as they were.  Young men who would overlook their past and young men who would marry them, love them, accept them, and become the Fathers of their children.
 Hope can indeed exist in the darkest places on this earth, and it is up to us to make sure these girls have a chance at the future that they are dreaming of.  The thought and dreams which probably sustain and encourage them to keep going in spite of their present circumstances.
 I love running in my ravine.  I really dislike running a race, especially a marathon.  I have had some very tough races dealing with every type of weather element you can imagine, as well as other factors well out of my control.  i.e. Major marathons running out of cups for water at the 30 km mark, winds of 50km/hr, race day temperatures of 31C/91F. 
 Yet this is a time where I am desperate and more than once I have prayed asking God for help as I felt I could not go one more step.  As an answer one marathon I saw a face of a young girl who has faced years of trauma and I felt I had to finish if just for her, another time the earlier writing came to mind and I felt I had to finish this race.
 In running I have not stumbled often.  In my life I stumble every day and am humbled that I am allowed to try to help these children.  I was and still am a very unlikely crusader for these children.
 The cup is a religious symbol I like.  The night before being put on the cross Jesus prayed "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done."
 James and John`s Mother asked Jesus to grant her son`s privilege with Jesus in His Kingdom.
 Jesus asked them "Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?  They replied yes.  Jesus answered them "you will indeed drink from my cup."
 My cup is the lives of children  many miles away.  It is a cup I would have never picked on my own.  The drink itself is bitter tasting.  It turns my stomach, causes sickness, tears, and despair-- and yet I also believe the drink itself brings life to me.
 The giant I write about is enormous.  The figures I come across keep changing and not in the right direction.  Billions of dollars are spent each year on the trafficking of young woman and children.  More than a million young children are being sold daily for the purpose of being exploited sexually.  Who knows how many children are actually involved?   As I do not think this money is reported to the Government, and I do not think a census is taken to accurately number the children.
 One person cannot do very much in terms of such numbers, so what does one person do?
 For myself I run, I put one foot in front of the other and try not to think of how far I have come and how far I still have to go.  I do not look or think I just run and hope and pray impossible thoughts and dreams much like the girls, that if they can dream of finding a husband I can dream of one day when the giant goes silent.
 While preparing my body for this last race a song came across my mind numerous times as I ran down my ravine.  Sometimes people on Earth seem to get away with their sins and go unpunished.  I thought this about the man in Cleveland who died three weeks into his life sentence.  I thought too soon, he did not pay enough.  His victims may have to pay for their whole lives for his evil.  Possibly his Justice was served just soon enough.
 The song is from Mumford and sons:  it starts as a man facing judgement on earth, in a very clever way they twist the writing into a day we will all face judgement day, and if I know anything this day did not go well for the man in Cleveland, nor will it go well for the many other men who are currently abusing children.
 You are their abusers now look at their faces
 Your oppression reeks of your greed and disgrace
 One man has while another has not
 How can you live with what you have got?
 When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor
 Murderers and thieves you don`t know what is in store
 There will come a time you will look in my eye
 You will pray to the God that you`ve always denied
 And I`ll go out back and I`ll get my gun
 You haven`t met me I am the only Son

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