8am on a Saturday.
I drove 5 hours into the night so I didn’t get to fully appreciate the Florida to Georgia highway. In the morning I was able to view it in all its glory. Here’s the highlight:
Billboards. So many billboards. In a 5 mile stretch you can buy a gun, sell a gun, buy another gun, buy a rack for your gun, a holster for your gun and a gun for your gun. You can buy a bible, borrow a bible, share a bible or read a bible with someone who will also sell you a gun. And you can do it all over brunch at the Cracker Barrel – home to a manufactured nostalgia of a South that none of us ever knew.
The race itself was held at Valdosta State University. A few notes about the race: It was one of the first races where there was free coffee BEFORE the race when you’re standing around cold and anxious wondering if you’ve left enough time to flush it all out. Brilliant.
The course meandered down neighborhood streets lined with magnificent, towering pine trees and graceful ranch homes with large porches for sipping iced tea on a cool southern evening. Or shoot a gun. Toss up.
Around mile 2 a woman came up next to me and just stayed by my side. I’m not sure if she saw me change pace a little in the warming southern sun or if she just needed someone to run with. We ran together the last mile, matching each others pace until we sprinted through the finish line. I was thankful for her camaraderie. I welcomed her companionship. It made me wonder if I was doing enough to be welcoming to those around me.
On the ride home I went 9 miles out of the way to go to the Georgia Welcome Center. (I wanted a picture with a peach.)
It was closed. The Welcome Center was CLOSED.
It made me think about my actions during this season of Lent. Am I welcoming or am I closed? Do I come along people and be an encourager like my running partner? Am I leading a life thats all about me or includes service to others, open 24 hours a day? How can I encourage YOU to run to win?
Back on highway 75 I started seeing huge billboards advertising Florida:
This is Florida.
ALL ARE WELCOME!
Open 24 hours a day.
Free Orange Juice!
Everybody is included. Always welcome, always open.
Be like Florida.