"I love this story. (I want to give credit for it, and I think it is attributed to Mark Hamill as the author, but I have not yet to be able to find the source to confirm it. So for now, he gets the credit for it.)
The Man In the Golden Shorts
by Mark Hamill
There once was a man who liked to run…occasionally. He had a neighbor who loved to run…all the time. He was a fanatic. One day “fanatic man” invited “occasional man” to join him for an upcoming 10-K “fun run” (talk about an oxymoron). Without bothering to due the math ----that 10-K equals 6.5 miles ---- occasional man agreed. And so it happened early one Saturday, occasional man and fanatic man found themselves registering for the Moreland Days 10-k, along with 100 other jogger-nauts.
Everyone got numbers pinned to their shirts and a map of the route.
The atmosphere among the participants was festive, and camaraderie continued even after the starter’s pistol cracked the new day. Occasional man got caught up in all the excitement and lost his map. No matter; he would just stick by the fanatic man…whatever it took.
This was a good plan --- for the first mile. But the knot of racers soon stretched into a snake, with the fittest athletes forming the head and the spent ones streaming behind.
Fanatic man moved effortlessly to the snout of the beast, leaving occasional man lost in the bowels. This bothered occasional man, but his mind soon turned to more pressing matters --- survival. The second mile had passed under foot and somewhere in the middle of the third, a thought began worrying the edges of his consciousness. He might not make it to the finish line, in fact, he could actually die out here.
A mile later the panic in his brain burned off like the morning fog and the future became clear. The issue wasn’t really if he would die, but when.
Meanwhile, the serpent slithered its way through quiet neighborhoods around a golf course and into a nearby forest preserve. Occasional man was all alone now. He could see only one other runner--- a man in golden shorts about 20 yards ahead. Occasional man prayed the stranger still had his map and knew where he was going. This was very important because occasional man knew if he got too far off course the police wouldn't be able to find his body.
The man in gold pulled occasional man along as if they were short-roped together. When he zigged, occasional man zigged, when he zagged, occasional man zagged, step by painful step through mile five into mile six. Finally they reached Main Street with its Frappuccino-sipping spectators.
Having made it back to civilization occasional man thought about collapsing, but his pride wouldn’t allow it. Dying alone in agony was one thing; spilling your guts in front of strangers was quite another. He finished the race and collapsed into the warm congratulations of well-wishers---including fanatic man, who looked like he just got back from walking the dog.
Occasional man gave his neighbor a bear hug, soaking him with sweat. Later that night he would duck tape the doors and windows of Fanatic mans house shut and put a For Sale sign in his yard. But right now he had more pressing business and went to find the man in the golden shorts. When he saw the exhausted stranger, leaning against a tree, Occasional man approached him and said, “Thanks. You saved my life.”
The moral of this racy tale? Quite simple---really: “Better a role model in sight than a hero over the hill.”
At times we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, afraid of stopping, and unsure about proceeding. We search frantically for anyone who knows where he or she is going – someone whose footsteps we can follow because we can literally step in them.
Heroes inspire us by their exploits, yet they are so far ahead of us we seldom see them in the flesh. And while Christians are told to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,” we also need our role models in the same heat as us.
As you run life’s marathon, whose tail are you following: a fathers, friends, big sisters, teachers, grandparents, or pastors? Have you looked that person in the eye lately and said, “Thanks. You saved my life” ? And on the other side of the race, who’s following you? What are you waiting for?