Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Hero of the Journey

The woman in the white shirt and black shorts in the middle of this picture is named Tammy.  She is perhaps one of the toughest women I have ever known.

Tammy developed severe blisters on her feet the very first day of our 100K walk.  Believe me, they were nasty.  She had at least three  per foot after the first day, and they were each the size of a quarter.  She was noticeably limping at the end of the day.

I was later informed that her blistering was not new.  As the group she belonged to had gone through their training, Tammy had developed blisters each time they did an extended walk.  Fortunately, they had done their long training walks and then had days of rest.  Unfortunately, our journey did not provide for days of rest.  We were covering the distance in three consecutive days.

Tammy limped horribly on day two.  She was moving much, much slower.  If we wouldn't have had the distance to cover, I wouldn't have had much of a problem slowing down.  However, we had a rough time line to keep.  We had to make miles.  Tammy had a choice: stop and ride or pick up the pace.

She chose the latter. 

Every time.

Several times, I dropped back from my lead position to walk next to Tammy.  I would check on her and spend time talking with her.  I hoped that with our conversation and my encouragement, she'd be able to keep focusing on other things instead of the pain in her feet.  I'm not sure her pain eased, but she was able to keep the pace.

After the second day, I visited with my dad who at one time coached high school sports.

"What did you do for blisters, Dad?"

"Sometimes, we'd take a gauze pad, rub it with Vaseline until it was saturated, then tape it to the foot with a band-aid or athletic tape."

It was worth a try.  I packed up the Vaseline and some gauze pad.  On the morning of day three, I approached Tammy. 

"I talked to my dad last night who was a coach.  He suggested we try this.  Can I help by fixing up your feet?"

At this point, she was ready to try anything.  Her feet hurt.  Man did they hurt.  She took off her shoes and socks.  She had band-aids on her blisters, and she removed them.

"Damn," I thought to myself.  "Nasty."

Her feet literally shook as I began putting Vaseline coated gauze on the blisters.  It was a cool morning, so I asked, "Are you cold?"

"No," Tammy replied.  "They're shaking because of the pain."

Holy crap.  Even while sitting still, her feet shook because of the pain.  How in the world was this woman continuing to walk?  How in the world was this woman enduring this journey?  I'm not sure I would have the strength to endure this kind of pain, but Tammy refused to quit.

Blessedly enough, day three was better than day two.  Between the gauze and some wrapping supplied by a vet who drove the tractor, she was able to move much better.  One of her blisters popped and had to be re-dressed, but there was no way she would be denied.  She was going to finish this walk, and she did.

I am proud to have walked this 100K with Tammy.  She is an inspiration to me.  A finisher, not a quitter.  In old West terms, "A woman to ride the river with."

In last Sunday's Gospel lesson from the 17th chapter of the book of Luke, Jesus says these words, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you."  It sounds impossible, but faith has a habit of making the impossible possible.

If you would have told me that a woman would endure three days of walking on nasty blisters to finish a 100K walk to raise money for people a half a world away--who had an opportunity to ride a trailer and ease her sore feet--whom no one would begrudge or become angry with for stopping to rest--yet who was determined to finish and would walk through agonizing pain--I would have told you I thought it was nearly impossible.  WRONG.

Tammy, I believe you have the faith of a mustard seed, and you were my hero of this journey.

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