A sad plea I hear ever so often, especially from the old or sick: “Bob!, why does God want to prolong my life, can't He take me away?”
By 7 p.m. on October 20, 1968, at the Mexico City Olympics Stadium, it was beginning to darken. It had cooled down as well. The last of the Olympic marathon runners were being assisted away to first-aid stations. Over an hour earlier, Mamo Waldi of Ethiopia had charged across the finish line, winning the 26-mile, 385-yard race looking as strong and as vigorous as when he'd started.
As the last few thousand spectators began preparing to leave, they heard police sirens and whistles through the gate entering the stadium.
Everybody's attention turned to that gate. A sole figure, wearing the colors of Tanzania, came limping into the stadium. His name was John Steven Aquari. He was the last man to finish the marathon in 1968. His leg was bandaged, bloody. He had taken a bad fall early in the race. Now, it was all he could do to limp his way around the track. The crowd stood and applauded as he completed that last lap.
When he finally crossed the finish line, one man dared ask the question all were wondering. "You are badly injured. Why didn't you quit? Why didn't you give up?" Aquari, with quiet dignity said, "My country did not send me seven thousand miles to start this race. My country sent me to finish."
And for many of you who are hurting or wondering why you are still in the race, let us have a look at Aquari for a moment; what would have happened if he had decided he would withdraw from the race half way?
I guess he would have walked out at some unknown place and the crowd would have made place for him to step out and then closed ranks again, suddenly he would have found he was in an unfamiliar place with unknown people all around, nobody would have even known he had started, whereas when he managed to finish those in the stadium stood and cheered. People love it when you finish a task!
They took him and embraced him and hugged him.
There were thousands who looked at him, wounded and hurt and were stirred by his determination to finish something he had begun; in all probability millions remember him and were inspired by him as they tackle or try to complete formidable tasks in their everyday lives.
Also after that day, Aquari must have put a hand around struggling person wanting to quit and said he himself had struggled, but finishing a job was the most important part!
The world is inspired everyday with people who don' quit; it's these people who create through example, great leaders of tomorrow. Your bloodied hands, hurt feet, and sick body, as you do the last lap push others towards greater heights. Your strength gives strength to the weak, your determination helps those with no focus to steady their gaze.
But more than that will a voice from above say, "Well done my son! Well done my daughter! You finished the race I set for you!"
God did not send you all the way to start a race, He sent you to complete the race He set for you..!
Robert Clements is a newspaper columnist and author. He blogs at www.bobsbanter.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org