Adventure and Struggle: We All Need Someone To “Lean On”

Recently my 17 year old son has taken up the guitar and over the last two years he’s gotten to be pretty good. As a result he gets asked to play for random family gatherings; backyard BBQ’s, impromptu jam sessions, even the occasional 50th year wedding anniversary. He plays and sings and I back him up on the drums. I’ve been playing since junior high so I can hold down a beat; if I do say so myself. My son is good by himself but we are freaking amazing together! I really do believe that is the way it is supposed to be…we’re ok on our own but we are so much better when we are together. We’ve learned quite a few songs in the last few months but the one that stands out is “Lean on Me.” Whether you’re playing music, running a race, or trying to manage the stress of everyday life, “Lean on Me” provides the simple (but not easy) wisdom we would do well to take to heart.

The run portion of a triathlon is simultaneously the simplest and most difficult part of the race. It’s the simplest because all you have to do is run. One foot in front of the other. It doesn’t require the precision or execution of swimming, or the technical know-how of biking; however, it is by far the most excruciating part of the race. Already exhausted from swimming and biking, and in the heat of the day… let the half-marathon begin. One of the most difficult parts of the run is how little mental acuity is required; step, step, step, step, step, step…which means the mind starts to wander. Now, if the mind drifts to thoughts of time frame, oppressive heat, ridiculous incline, and achy muscles; well, then energy begins to wane and motivation takes a big hit. It was during just one of these mental attacks that I began to hear a strange yet incredible familiar sound. “DAVE!!!! LET’S GO!!! YOU GOT THIS!!! THAT’S MY BOY RIGHT THERE!!!” Two of my best friends in the whole world, holding a bluetooth speaker over head and yelling at the top of their lungs. Without hesitation they cut through the crowd and fell into line running alongside me. I was so tired, SO TIRED, and looked like hell-warmed-over but the moment they came alongside me I felt an energy and a connection that quite literally carried me forward. They ran with me for a while, encouraging me, singing “Good as Hell,” and telling me how badass they thought I was. After a few minutes they looked at me and said, “alright man, we’ll see you at the finish line!” Those are powerful words; and the reason they are so powerful is because of the embodiment that came before. There are very few things in this world as powerful as when one person comes alongside another. I instantly think of Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings as Frodo becomes more and more burdened by the responsibility of carrying the ring and falters from exhaustion both physically and emotionally “Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”(J.R.R. Tolkien). Coming alongside is not about “doing for” it is about “being with.” Learning to manage stress means learning to recognize when we need to lean on others. I can’t just go at it alone. Life is always hard but it is excruciating when we are cut-off from others. Stress management requires connection and connection requires vulnerability. 

The song “Lean on Me” had become so familiar to me that I didn’t really hear the words anymore, until I started playing it with my son. And there it is, the remedy that so many of us are searching for, a real true connection. Friendship. Someone who will come alongside us and say, “You got this!”

 

Lean on Me

Songwriter: Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives; We all have pain

We all have sorrow; But if we are wise

We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me; When you’re not strong

And I’ll be your friend; I’ll help you carry on…

For it won’t be long; Till I’m gonna need somebody to lean on

 

Please swallow your pride; If I have things you need to borrow

For no one can fill; Those of your needs that you won’t let show

You just call on me brother when you need a hand; We all need somebody to lean on

I just might have a problem that you’ll understand; We all need somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear; That you can’t carry

I’m right up the road; I’ll share your load

If you just call me, Call me

If you need a friend, Call me

If you ever need a friend, Call me

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