255 Triathlons (6 Ironman distances, 7 Half Ironman), 22 Duathlons, 72 Marathons (32 Boston Marathons), 8 18.6 Milers, 97 Half Marathons, 1 20K, 37 10 Milers: That’s a lot of miles. A lot of training. A lot of numbers. It’s an economy of sorts for athletic achievement.
These are some of the stats for Team Hoyt, the father-son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt who have raced together for 37 years. Rick was born with cerebral palsy in 1962, and his parents were told to institutionalize him. They brought him home instead. He struggled with his handicap but the computer technology allowed him to communicate for himself. And he communicated that he wanted to run:
In the spring of 1977, Rick told his father that he wanted to participate in a 5-mile benefit run for a Lacrosse player who had been paralyzed in an accident. Far from being a long-distance runner, Dick agreed to push Rick in his wheelchair and they finished all 5 miles, coming in next to last. That night, Rick told his father, “Dad, when I’m running, it feels like I’m not handicapped.”
Dick Hoyt did not have to push his son in 72 marathons. He did not have to run until the age of 74, pushing his own body to the limit so that his son could feel the joy of competition and athleticism. But he is a father. And he loves his son. And so he has run.
I don’t know the Hoyts, but I suspect that they probably don’t think that what they’ve done is heroic. It’s unique, certainly, and a great accomplishment, but heroic? They would likely deny that term. Yet it is. It is the heroism of family, a heroism that we need badly in our world today.
We know that the majority of American teens do not live in an intact family. Whether it’s the mother or father that is out of the home, it’s a problem. The daily presence of a parent should not just be the norm, is should be normal. It’s what creates a healthy family, healthy kids, a healthy culture. As Christians, we have a model for this in God. God – as Christians understand Him – is a family of love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is out of this love that we are created, and we are then given the command to love as God does.
Thus, there is an economy to the family, not in the sense of numbers added up in one column and subtracted in the next, or in how much a family produces vs. how much it consumes. It’s not an economy of counting the hours rocking a colicky baby, or sitting through piano recitals, or even running behind your son’s wheelchair. It is related though: it’s the economy of love, oikonomia. It’s what we say “yes” to when we agree to marry, to have a child, to raise a family, to care for an aging parent. It’s the very nature of love.
In For the Live of the World, this idea of the economy of love is explored. What’s the nature – the economy – of love? Team Hoyt is a testament to this, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the numbers they’ve racked up. It has to do with a dad and a son loving each other so much, they are willing to push themselves to the very limit, over and over again.