In May, I moved to the sleepy little town of Morattico, where two roads intersect along the side of the Rappahannock River in Virginia. A post office, the size of a small cottage, and a waterman’s museum that celebrates the history of the area comprise our local commerce. Nightly I walk to the museum where I find a small cooler of ice cream. I pray that it will be stocked with Nutty Buddy cones, but will happily settle for a traditional ice cream sandwich. I place a $1.00 donation in the blue box, meander home along the water’s edge, and enjoy my summer treat.
The average age of a “Morattican” is approximately 85 years old. My next-door neighbor, George, was born and raised in Morattico. He’s lived in four houses his entire life, each within walking distance of the other, finally settling down in the home built by his parents. He made his living on the waters in front of his home. Selling his daily catch, he was known for his bushels of crabs and fresh Rockfish. He knows the history of the area in vivid detail and our evening front porch happy hour visits fill my heart with happiness.
Over the three months, as I sip my morning coffee, I see the shuffling of a local as he makes his way down the road in front of our home. He is clothed head to foot in warm attire, including a jacket that displays a lightning bolt across the back. Each of his steps barely leaves the pavement and his eyes stay focused on the next step to ensure he doesn’t lose his balance. I’m mesmerized by this “Morattican” as I’m not sure I’ve seen him miss a single morning stroll. His routine is nothing short of fascinating for me as I have struggled to find the same discipline in my life. I don’t know his story, but have speculated on his health, his determination, his consistency, and his attire choices.
While his journey isn’t mine to know, I have fondly coined my neighbor as “Lightning.” The speed with which he makes his way along the river is irrelevant to me, but the story I’ve conjured in my mind has been a powerful lesson for me. While his jacket is likely an advertisement for a local HVAC company, I believe it’s a reflection of his inner self lightning. The Aesop fable of the Tortoise and the Hare comes to mind. My friend “Lightning” is the tortoise. He simply stays the course and doesn’t find a reason to give up. He is balanced and focused. Slow and steady will win his race as he refrains from overconfidence.
“Lightning” reminds me to identify my strengths and use them wisely. The hare isn’t better than the tortoise, nor is the tortoise better than the hare for winning the race. He simply realized that his strengths are unique. A reminder that we should not be comparing ourselves to others; We should each run our own race and celebrate our own “lightning.”