It’s a race across America, a prize awaits at the end. You have trained for this race, others have more preparation ahead of time, and all have the same destination but some have started closer to the end. This is not seen as a bad thing, it’s just to be expected in the race. You have all been taught the destination. You see other runners running in all different directions as you travel across the country, and this puzzles you. All runners get to run in groups, some are leaders, some are followers. Most, if they are given enough time become leaders at certain points. It’s possible for one to follow a leader,and another to follow that one. You have a main map that’s been given to you, it’s original writing is French, but it’s been translated for you. Sometimes you have to really study the map to apply what it says to your race and you might get off the path at times, but generally if you keep your focus on the prize you can get yourself back on the path. You finally settle with a group of great people with some really wonderful leaders. The race is never easy, but it becomes more enjoyable. If something happens, this group of people helps one another. You do take time out on the race every week to talk about the prize, and listen to leaders that are helping to coach you to your destination. Some groups of people have great leaders and coaches who really give them sound advice for the journey. You have come to anticipate what road signs you will see, and how you will run to avoid injury, and what food you will take in for nutrition, and how much water you will consume in order to stay properly hydrated.
One day, you notice some of the towns are a bit different. Your leaders/coaches assure you that you’ve only changed a little bit on focus as many people are dropping out of the race. Oddly, it’s the young people they are worried about, not the older ones who’ve been running the race for a while. You begin stretching differently, some of the food is really great…cake, fluffy things, fast food, you know, stuff that will keep the younger ones involved and keep their eyes focused on the path. It’s important that we in our group stay on the path together. It’s also important that we add as many to the path even if they are not going to be prepared in the way we were earlier. You notice some of the members are concerned with sights along the side of the race, and go off to spend time working over here or there. The road might look like it’s in need of repair, so they go and fix it. After all, it’s important that the road be smooth for others coming along the path. Some plant flowers or put beautiful rocks along the way. Others prepare the food for the younger runners. Some spend great amounts of time with people not in the race. They have been given little maps by the leaders written by others. The maps don’t look exactly like the first map, but they seem close enough. These group members begin to hand out these maps, they don’t take much training to hand out and a few join the race.
You recall you were racing from New York to Los Angeles. The prize is your focus, you want to stay focused on the prize. As you continue the race, your leaders/coaches continue to mention cities along the way, and they seem to be going off the path to Los Angeles. Why are you in Texas this week? Hmmm, now you’re in Kentucky, now Missouri, now Ohio. Some days, you’re really hungry and thirsty. You see the normal meals offered, no vegetables, no fruits, no carbohydrates with nutrition…only fast food and sweet beverages and sodas. You’re feeling sick. New members are getting fat, walking, eating, and following the leaders/coaches around. Some are doing such nice projects, fixing bikes for people who bike ride, changing engines for those with cars, some are map makers, some are building houses. All have many goals in mind. All assure you they are also looking at the prize, and besides, they are helping people. You know you are supposed to be going for the prize, and you do have a few friends you’ve invited to come with you. You wanted to offer them the prize you seek, so you let them in on what you were doing. Some have been with you a while, others you have just recently asked to come along.
You’ve begun to notice something new. Some people seem to be leaving the path you’re on. They jump in with new leaders. These are the seasoned marathon runners. Some have taught you great stretches, others you’ve learned about proper nutrition. A few you’ve seen speaking with the leaders/coaches trying to convince them to take a different turn at the next fork in the road or to go back to a healthier diet. You’ve run across a few on the path and you’ve asked them questions. They have given you clues that your leaders/coaches may be on the wrong path. You’re not sure. You wait and see.
One day you realize you are getting colder. Why is this? Some of the signs you have read are in a different language. It is French! Well, but it’s weird, why would there be so much French? Your leaders assure you that since the map was first in French, you must be getting closer to the right area and to the prize. What? They interpret the French for you. They also tell stories about the places you’ll go on the path, and about the area. It sure sounds different than what you had learned as a child about the race, about the path, and about the prize. They begin to tell you what physical exercises and breathing techniques you need to do to optimize your success in the race. Some of the stretches are intended to discipline your body. Your goal is to make your body be in great shape. You must run in different ways also, sometimes stepping with long strides, other times taking baby steps. It’s all getting confusing, every day it’s something different.
Suddenly, you come across a traveler. This traveler began the race in a different place than you, and is traveling on the race going south. Funny, you’re going north. How can you be in the same race? You take their map, wow! It looks the same as the first map with translations that let you know clearly where you are. You study the map, and some of the notes from the traveler. Other travelers come along. You begin to question your leaders/coaches based on the information you’ve learned from the travelers. The leaders offer reassurance, you are on the right path. You want to help the youth stay in the race, right? Well, this is what we have to do for them. Besides, we’re on a mission also to gather these people up from here. We have many projects to do in order to attract more to the race. You feel weaker in this race, unfed, out of shape. You get involved in projects, you really try your new stretches. You are assured you will be closer to the prize if you do these things in the right way and in the right order. You notice a criticism of people who do it the way you once thought, a criticism of those who look like the travelers you met. You still continue to look at the map from these travelers, however, and the notes. One day it hits you, you are likely on the wrong path. Wow, you cannot believe it, you are in Canada! Your leaders have not been calling you runners for a long time, they’ve been saying you are prize catchers. You now can see it more clearly, and cannot believe you’ve been dragged all the way up here. Getting back on the path is going to be painful. Now what do you do? Do you try to tell all your friends and the leaders/coaches? Do you join a group of travelers running toward the south east? You are torn, believing this group you’ve been running with can get back. They all mean well, they’re all great. You love them so much. Now it’s a matter of time, but only a short time as you have to decide what to do. Your children, after all, have been following you and copying you this whole way. Whatever you decide, it has to be with your eyes on the prize.