Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Running Helps One Child Overcome Her Fears

I have just completed the fall quarter at school in San Diego, and returned to New Hampshire on Monday.  My goal over the Christmas holiday is to get a couple of other people who run with our kids to join the blog.  In the meantime, I can share running stories firsthand:  something that is much harder to do when I am 3,000 miles away. 

I would like to share an experience with one of our children who has only lived at St. Charles for a few weeks.  I was sitting at the table finishing supper, and I felt a light tap on my shoulder.  I turned around to find Anna (names must be changed for the privacy of the children) looking at me with absolute terror in her eyes and wanting to know who I was.  I smiled and introduced myself.    She moved behind Mother Paul Marie, who was also at the table, and hid herself.  After a few moments, she gathered enough courage to come back over to me and ask me my name.  She did not run away when I answered this time, but had both hands in her mouth and was still shaking with terror.  After about a minute she gathered the courage to tell me her name:  Anna.  Clearly, this is a child with high anxiety levels and who wants to meet new people but has to struggle with her terror to do it.

The next morning, Sister Maximilian was telling me how Anna’s run went the day before.  Since Anna is a beginner, Sister takes her for a walk/run by herself after the other children come home from their run.  Sister is careful to give Anna a lot of positive encouragement.  She was talking to Anna about how to respond to strangers when they say “hello” during a run (it is rude to ignore people yet we want the children to know not to stop and begin a conversation).  Sister suggested to Anna that it is nice to say “Merry Christmas” to people this time of year.  Soon they were passing the school, and the janitor was walking near the building.  Sister Maximilian said, “Good afternoon,” as they passed.  Anna said, “Merry Christmas!”  The man smiled and Anna was beaming with happiness as Sister Maximilian pointed out to her how she had made that man’s day happier. 

Children learn more than running during their runs.  In this case Anna had the opportunity during her walk/run to confront a big fear she has, and to learn how to be polite to a stranger in an appropriate and beautiful way.  She is on the road to learning so much, and her daily walk/ runs are helping her to do it.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Sisters' First Running Shoes

I just finished reading Pete Larson's post and video expo on different running shoes and footstrike:  Relationship Between Running Footstrike and Footwear: From Stability Shoes to Barefoot.  His incredibly interesting study of running shoes is going to be something I follow with interest.  However, while reading his post I couldn't help being reminded of Sister Maximilian's first running shoes.

It all started when Sister came to visit the convent before entering and asked if she could bring her Birkies with her when she came.  Her Birkies did come with her:  she was allowed to wear them in her room!  That all changed a few years later when Sister finished her Novitiate and came to work at St. Charles Children's Home.  Her new Superior was happy to allow her to wear Birkies in public, as long as they were the London style with the closed toe.  From that day forward, Sister always wore her London Birkenstocks.

Fast forward a few more years, to the summer when Sister Maximilian was walking every day with Rose on woodland trails.  By the end of the summer, their daily walks had turned into daily runs.  Rose was wearing sneakers.  Sister was wearing her London Birkenstocks.  I happened to be 300 miles away that summer at our Motherhouse preparing for final vows.  Since preparation for vows was a summer-long intensive time of prayer and study, I had no contact with Sister during that summer.  Finally at the end of the summer she came to the Motherhouse for the retreat.  We were not allowed to talk because it was the retreat, but I noticed her shoes right away.  I had never known Sister Maximlian to allow her Birkies to become so dilapidated!  They were all scratched and smashed.  No shoe polish would have helped those poor shoes.  I wondered what on earth had been going on when I was away.

The day the retreat ended I learned that the shoes--with Sister Maximilian in them--had been running on trails in the woods all summer.  So, the Birkies were Sister's first running shoes.  Later that fall we learned about real running shoes, and those poor Birkies never had to endure the trail again.