Exuberance is the word that came to mind as I watched, listened, and danced to the gospel choir and band on the steps of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn on Sunday. They shared their joy with the runners of the New York City Marathon and crowds lining the nearby sidewalk.
I wasn’t standing in that spot when the elite runners passed by in a flash, their lithe bodies barely touching the ground. I wonder though whether they would have noticed the choir and their music. For that second, would their spirits have been lifted? Or would they be concentrating on their stride, breathing, and the task at hand?
When later I was standing by the church, I watched the runners, now of many shapes and sizes, ages and ethnicities. Some seemed to be hurting eight miles into their 26.2-mile run. I wondered if they would make it to the finish line. Some, when they heard the music, lifted their gaze and waived or raised their arms in delight, big smiles on their faces. Or they shouted, “thank you!” Some high-fived strangers standing on the sidewalk with an outstretched arm.
Other runners seemed to be in their own world, not noticing the life-affirming music off to their left. I couldn’t help but wonder what the race was like for those who kept their focus inward and didn’t “see” or “hear” what was going on around them. Did they notice the architecture changes as they ran from borough to borough? Did they delight in the crowds cheering them on? What did they hear, smell, see as they ran the route?
It reminds me of my experience at a long meditation retreat. During the first few days I was in a lot of pain from sitting for so long. I could barely focus on anything else. Then after a few days, my mind relaxed, and I let go of the pain or the pain let go of me. Either way, I felt a sense of openness and clarity. If I had been running on Sunday, would I have noticed the choir? I can’t say.
What I do know is that from the sidelines, I rejoiced in the choir’s spirit, and I appreciated being alive. I went to New York City to renew my energy, to see and experience plays and music, to walk and walk and walk, and I have come home refreshed!
How do you recharge your battery? What brings you exuberance?