[caption id="attachment_170909" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Image: By Jessica Rockowitz (2018), Unsplash.com, CC0/PD[/caption]
It’s hard to know if it’s genetic or behavioral, but I was recently reminded of an annoying habit when walking with my family. It’s not my singing or bad dad jokes, it’s not even a lack of fashion sense; my family can overlook each of these faults. What they struggle with is me walking ahead and subsequently leaving them behind.
Yes, I’m that dad who can be found walking ten feet ahead of his family, charging through crowds, picking the quickest path back to the car park, giving the impression he is preparing for the next powerwalking competition. I was recently reminded of this perspective (for the hundredth time) by my ever-patient family, who eventually caught up with me and expressed their frustration. It was an important reminder for this hyperactive, task focused, efficiency fueled walking machine.
With a family of six, it can be difficult to navigate our way around a shopping mall or an unfamiliar location and my instinct is to lead them with seamless navigation from point a to point b. This is partly due to a need to stay in control but also the complete lack of direction my family demonstrates when walking together. It’s like the GPS is permanently turned off. This sort of family leadership is quite contrary to every other aspect of family life, which is generally shared and inclusive. And there’s the rub. When I leave my family behind, it’s more than physical distance I’ve placed between myself and the others. The problem is the social distancing that removes a rare chance to be together, to go at a slower pace, to chat, hold hands and enjoy being present in the moment.
An enduring memory of my time as a Scout was being one of the slowest hikers and the awful feeling of falling to the back of the pack. My short legs and heavy gear made keeping up challenging and I eventually ended up right at the back with the troop leader. When we reached our rest stop and caught up with the others, I was given a few minutes to recover and was then told to get up and lead the group. The troop leader explained that our pack would walk at the pace of the slowest person. My heart sank as I trudged on with the concern of slowing everyone down, but as I moved ahead I could hear the encouragement of the Scouts behind me and I began to blaze ahead. It must have taken an incredible amount of patience to slow their pace, watching me struggle ahead and still offer encouragement.
In many ways, the pandemic has slowed life down and many have experienced a varied pace with the transition to working from home, schooling from home, and relaxing at home. It has been exhausting trying to switch my speed from national video conferencing to helping my daughter prepare a prayer focus in the kitchen to exercising with the family and finding time for stillness and prayer. The frustrations are many, but the rewards flow when I adjust my expectations and allow myself to be aware of the other members in my pack. Yes, we may take an unusual route and get lost a few times, but how else will they learn to lead and what will I miss in rushing ahead?
During a morning Mass in May 2015, Pope Francis encouraged the congregation to imagine “what they will leave behind” and consider their personal legacy. Perhaps we can rephrase the question to be “who am I leaving behind” and how will my choice of how I travel though life impact this legacy? As each nation races to addresses the health needs of their people, it is also timely to consider those left behind in the rush to suppress the epidemic: the poor, the lonely, the refugee, victims of domestic violence.
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Are you like the disciples who out ran each other only to find an empty tomb, or do you journey more gently like those on the road to Emmaus, discussing and sharing life? What does it feel like to be left behind? Is there anyone that you leave behind? How are you managing the change of pace in your home?
[caption id="attachment_170907" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Copyright 2020 Nathan Ahearne. All rights reserved.[/caption]
Copyright 2020 Nathan Ahearne
About the Author
Nathan Ahearne's faith journey has helped to shape the person he is today as husband, father, teacher and formator of young people. His vocation and faith are strengthened and nourished by those he encounters in service and contemplation. Nathan is a creative thinker and likes to roll up his sleeves and see projects through to completion. He is a John 10:10 fan. Read more at Expressions of Interest.