marathonslider (20).rIf you haven’t read Sarah Condon’s “Coming to Terms with the American Hero Fix” in the premier issue of The Mockingbird magazine, PLEASE do yourself a favor and partake.  It stopped me in my tracks.  I had considered writing about “Boston Strong” this week – the Boston Marathon had resumed last week one year after the bombings.  The ESPN Boston Strong feature in April was tear jerking.  Sarah’s words haunted me though, and gave me pause.   The “Boston Strong” campaign just leaps off the page with glorious inspiration.  How do we not tip our caps to a city that shuts down one day each year to root on marathon runners?  It’s wonderful.  Here in Atlanta, if we shut down annually to love on people who put themselves through a grueling race every year, I’d like to think I’d be there cheering them on (if not participating).  Add to that a “rise from the ashes” story on the heals of last years’ bombings, and you have Oprah-level inspiration just waiting to exude…but Sarah Condon spoke wisdom into the penultimate chaos:

Every national tragedy we face (a bombing, a shooting, a natural disaster) becomes a platform for this heroism.  Social media outlets are flooded with images of people helping people…..There are Coast Guard helicopter rescues, track competitors helping one another cross the finish line, and free books given away at bookstores.  In these moments of crisis, frantic for answers, we need heroes to stand up among us and reassure us that we aren’t all that bad, that these disasters are explainable, that they are systematic irregularities or outliers to the common thread of good will. I know I certainly feel that way.

The problem is that we often feel the way we feel even after we’ve seen the photos.  They don’t seem to answer what they promise to.  Certainly they provide momentary relief, but the pointed despair of these events always comes rushing back.  And isn’t there something to be said about this faith always needing restoring?  Where has it been lost?

She’s right.  I couldn’t find a “Boston Strong” angle that didn’t ooze with fleeting heroism and a theology of glory, until this week’s episode of HBO Real Sports episode reminded me of my favorite father-son sports pair of all-time, Dick and Rick Hoyt.  Wow.  Dick (73) and son Rick (52) have run 240 triathons and 68 marathons over the past few decades.  Rick was born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, which has resulted in him not ever being able to move or speak.  Dick  has pushed or towed Rick in every one of those (over 300) races.  Last week’s Boston Marathon was Dick’s last race.  He can’t push Rick anymore.  He has put off numerous surgeries, and his body is just telling him it can’t run anymore.  To hear Dick talk about it though, he’s just a broken down, divorced, imperfect man who has found his life by losing it, pouring it out for Rick.  Yet, to Dick, his son is the “athlete” – the one in the pair who is competitive and has the intense desire to win.

Dick Hoyt isn’t a hero who has risen from the ashes, or bounced back from some disaster.  He isn’t trying to (as Sarah mentioned) reassure us that we aren’t that bad, or that tragedy is explainable.  He’s just a dad loving his son.  There’s a wonderful moment (at the 8:55 mark) in the longer version of the video below where Dick breaks down when talking about a joyful sound that Rick makes when they’re on the bike together during a triathlon.  Dick literally runs “for the joy set before him”.  Dick Hoyt is much more than just an “example of a good father” or someone who “inspires us to love more”.  He’s a type.  Types are individuals who give us a taste of or glimpse at something that we long for, that we’re built for.

Rick Hoyt is also a type.  He’s an earthly tent that came without poles or stakes.  It has a broken zipper that opens just wide enough for us to be able to peer in and see an image bearing soul that lets out a beautiful noise, telling anyone who will listen that it is loved.  Rick Hoyt has the heart, mind and, yes, “body” of an athlete.