For my friend

March 30, 2014

20 years ago, when I was going through a painful time in my life, I decided to run my first marathon.  I wasn’t really a runner, I just needed to prove to myself that I can conquer anything that I set my mind to.   I was determined to look the 42.195 km course in the eye and beat it back.

I still remember the race.  As I got to the last few km’s, I could feel my body running out of fuel.  My lungs were burning.  My legs were screaming for mercy.  When I reached the last km, four and a half hours after the start, my legs were cramping so badly that I was barely shuffling along.

And then all of a sudden, I looked up, and there you were!  You had been waiting for me at the last km marker.  You saw I was in trouble, so you hopped the fence, got onto the course and ran along side of me for the last km!

Do you remember what you said?  I do.  ”Don’t say anything.  Conserve your energy.  I am here to see you through to the finish line.”

So you ran beside me for the last kilometer.  Step by step.  When I could run a little, you ran.  When I needed to slow down to a shuffle.  You shuffled.   When I needed to walk, you walked right along side of me.

You never said a word.  You just ran and walked with me.

Every single step.

When I finally made the last turn toward the final straightaway up to the finish line, you slapped me on my back, and said, “Go on up, run to the finish line.  This is your moment.”

With that, you veered off the course into the spectators, and I ran up to cross the finish line to the cheer of the crowds.  The race officials put the finisher’s medal around my neck.  42.195 kms.  4 hours and 40 minutes.  My first marathon.

When I visited you in the hospital today, I was thinking about that moment.  Hard to believe it was more than 20 years ago.

So much had happened in 20 years.  Life took us down different paths.  We each had our battles to fight.  We won some.  We lost some.  And some, we discovered they were not worth fighting after all.

Today, we have reached the last stage of your marathon.  Your life’s journey.

Like me 20 years ago, your body is battered and broken, but your spirit is strong.  Like me 20 years ago, you are determined to finish this race with courage.

As I drove home today,  I thought to myself, “It’s time to return this 20 year favor.”

Don’t have to say anything.  Conserve your energy.  I am here to see you through to the finish line.

Where the crowds will be cheering, and those who finished the race before you will welcome you and put your finishers medal around your neck.

This is your moment.

I am so honored to run these last miles with you.

 

 

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The golf clap

February 20, 2014

I have always hated the “golf clap”.

You know, the one where you gently tap the palm of one hand with the fingers of another…so named because apparently some dude made up a rule that says it is not polite or “cultured” to clap loudly on a country club golf course, even when one is applauding a great shot.

But of course we don’t just see the “golf clap” on golf course…generally in any situation where people feel obligated to clap, following a performance, a speech, a whatever, they resort to the “golf clap”, the half hearted, sorry excuse for an applause.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at a graduation ceremony for a training program that helps  new immigrants advance their English and equip them for the Canadian job market.   Following the speeches the diplomas were handed out.  They made that one announcement that they ALWAYS make at these occasions, one that NO ONE ever listens to:  ”Please hold your applause till the very end.”

Of course you know what always happen in these occasions: the graduates with the big “fan clubs” get crazy loud cheers, while those who didn’t have very many friends/family in the stands get the obligatory “golf clap”.

I don’t know what came over me at the ceremony, but as I sat and watched the graduates walked up to receive their diplomas one by one, I began to loudly cheer and clap for everyone of them, because they deserve it.

Many of them left behind the comforts of the place they have spent their whole lives in, threw their families on their backs, crossed oceans to come to pursuit a better life and bigger dreams for their children.  They gave up good jobs.  They had to learn a brand new language.  They got by taking on survival jobs so life can be better for their kids.   I have the privilege of encountering stories like theirs in my work.   Every time I hear their stories, they inspire me to become a better human being.  Every time.

As I applauded them and watched the smiles on their faces, it occurred to me that for many of them, may be it has been a long time since anyone had cheered for them.  For some, perhaps they have never heard that sound before, someone cheering for them, calling their names.

I left the ceremony with a strained voice and stinging palms.  But I was also reminded how good it feels to pour your heart out to celebrate the achievement of others.

Next time you have an opportunity to applaud someone, leave the golf clap on the golf course.  Put your hands together.  Jump.  Shout.  Go nuts for them.  Because you never know how long it’s been since they have had someone cheer for them, or how long it will be before they hear it again.

 

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A lesson in homophobia

January 17, 2014

A few weeks ago I went out to lunch with 3 other good friends.  Four of us, 2 guys and 2 girls chatted up a storm like we normal do.  I can’t remember exactly how, but in one of the playful turns in our conversation, I made a verbal jab at the other guy, pretending [...]

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Prayers Needed This Weekend!

January 3, 2014

Hi friends! This weekend I am looking forward to speaking and singing at a retreat to a gathering of young volunteers for Across U-Hub.  I was invited to speak on the theme of creativity and volunteering.  Which are two ideas that I am absolutely passionate about.  Last couple of days, however, I have come down [...]

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Thanks Everyone!!!

December 15, 2013

We had an awesome time on Saturday night!  Despite the snow and the cold, many of you battled the weather and came out for the show.   Even though it was a smaller, more intimate show, it took a small army of people to make it happen.  Thanks to Design Girl Sarah for the beautiful poster, [...]

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Let there be…

November 28, 2013

“Let there be light!” I have always LOVED these words from the opening pages of the Bible, where God created the world.  I LOVE the way the Bible described how He did it.  We are told that God created with words.  He spoke, and He created… I believe that which sets us apart from other [...]

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Upcoming Show! Inviting you to “Taking it easy…”

November 21, 2013

Hey everyone! I would like to invite you all to a Cantonese speaking concert I will be putting on with my friends on December 14 (Saturday).  The concert will be at the Richmond Hill Free Methodist Church.  Here is the link to the Facebook event page that the church has created: https://www.facebook.com/#!/events/760627823963340/ For those who [...]

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Looking ahead…

November 2, 2013

Last Sunday, I spoke at a good friend’s church.  The congregation was exceedingly kind and gracious and the message was well received.  After I spoke in the second service my good friend who was the pastor got up and said, “We are so thankful to have Alfred in our midst this morning.  Over the past [...]

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Upcoming speaking/performing schedule…prayers and good thoughts needed

September 19, 2013

Hi everyone! Just thought I throw out some of the stuff I’ve got coming up.  Definitely would like any prayers/good thoughts/positive energies you can send my way.  I will post more details when each of these events draw closer: September 28 (Saturday):  I will be doing a couple of songs in an outdoor Fall Festival [...]

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Power

September 2, 2013

A few weeks ago I attended a work function and heard a wonderful speaker on the issue of social justice.  She said something that had since echoed in my head over and over again like a good song.  She said: “The work of social justice, the work of bringing about real changes, are ALWAYS done [...]

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