One soggy January day, I found myself trekking through Washington, D.C., with some of my favorite college students. Between sn-rain storms (you know, that delightful wintery mix where snow meets rain), we decided to haul ourselves to see the Christmas tree still up at the Capitol building. This trek was several blocks, but worth it, and if you looked at the photos you’d see smiling faces in front of beautifully lit Christmas trees, right in the heart of D.C.
Then…we saw the Washington Monument reaching up to the edge of the horizon, and we thought, “Well, it’s not that far. You’re only in D.C. so often, let’s go!” We trekked to the monument and were rewarded with its beauty in the shadows of early twilight.
Then…we saw the lights of the Lincoln memorial begin to arrive with dusk. Well, goodness, I mean, it’s only like what, half a mile? We’ve got this. So, we put shoes to sidewalk and set off on our mission. We spent time taking in the various thought-provoking quotes within the monument, taking pictures as we lollygagged on the steps, and remarking how rare it was to find the monument so unattended, the city so quiet. We congratulated ourselves for being clever tourists and braving the cold when everyone else stayed home.
It took half a block back in the direction of our hotel for this congratulatory madness to end. We stopped congratulating ourselves because we were too busy complaining.
“My feet hurt.”
“Are your toes numb? I think mine are going numb.”
“Does anyone want to carry me on their back? I mean, I think I might be actually bleeding at this point…how is it scientifically possible to know you’re bleeding and still be numb at the same time?”
“I would give anything for a coffee shop. Why are there no coffee shops on the National Mall? I mean, it’s freezing out here. I need liquid warmth.”
“YOU GUYS! I am dying. I don’t think I can walk. I think I’m just going to sit next to this trash can here and let the rats feast on my bones. That would be preferred to the madness of MORE WALKING!”
“WHY GOD, WHY? I would like to find the city planner who fooled me into thinking this was just a short jaunt. This is pure evil. My feet may fall off before we get to the next block. I can’t. I just can’t.” (Insert the sound of two of us laughing hysterically and dissolving into a fit of tears, which then began to actually freeze on our cheeks.)
We tried to get an Uber that never came. We traded piggy back rides. We passed around mittens and stocking caps on a rotation schedule so no one had to suffer more than another. We considered sleeping on benches, but the call of warm, safe beds in our hotel room was too strong. We kept walking.
This was the day I learned the definition of endurance.
It’s such a silly example in the midst of a world full of cancer, a world that robs a continent of children of their parents through HIV, a world where anxiety and loneliness vie for the top adjectives commonly found in daily life. But a spoonful of humor (and evidently tourism stupidity) helps the medicine go down.
Life demands endurance and this fact applies to anything from the daily grind to the most difficult moments we can encounter, those far more difficult than lost-on-the-National-Mall-with-terrible-walking-shoes-and-inadequate-winter-apparel.
It’s fascinating, as well as telling, to me that 1 Corinthians 13 doesn’t say “I endure all things,” but “love endures all things.” Can you imagine sobbing because your feet are bleeding and you’re freezing and a good couple of miles from your hotel…by yourself?