Leaving Buena Vista, CO, I climb to the top of Trout Creek Pass through reddish canyons and sage brush that open to wide valleys with snow topped mountains in the distance. It is a road I had driven many times. While living in Crested Butte, CO I would often go to Boulder to visit friends, never imagining that years later I would be running this same road. On this day I am lost in quiet thoughts. I need no music. The road is busy with people leaving the city and headed for the mountains. I am lucky, the shoulder is large enough to accommodate myself and my stroller. Puff clouds are gathering in the distance and I think that I may not escape the rain today.
Then she appears.
At my next mile marker is a young girl. Her mother is nearby and it is obvious they are waiting for me. She stands there, her blonde hair tucked under her helmet as she stands next to her mountain bike. Her name is Cali. Her mother is Clo. Cali has two white roses in her hand and when I place my flag she lays the roses next to it and thanks our young Marine for his service while I salute. Together, we move down the highway. I run, she rides. For the next 4 miles we repeat our procedure. I salute, she places roses. I learn that Cali is 13 years old. She has a brother in the Marines and I sense she adores him. She is witty and smart and devoted to Veterans Causes. I find this fascinating and admirable and see maturity beyond her years. There is more though.
You see, Cali has a prosthetic leg. Four years ago it was partially amputated. She has survived 14 major surgeries and bacterial spinal meningitis. She will eventually lose her leg just above the knee as her body grows and her leg doesn’t. Her prosthetic is camoflage and bears the logos of our Armed Forces. On the back of it are the initials of her brother. There is a guardian angel which represents those we have lost, still watching over us. A butterfly represents the casualties.
Her mother says Cali is unique, that she is raising a difference, not a child who is different but a child who has a calling and who is making a difference in those that she touches. In a world that so often seems so self absorbed, this angel took the time out of her young life to find me on the road and she takes time out of her life to reach out to those Vets that feel that their life is empty and meaningless. Hers is such a selfless, genuine act. Her love of country, her love of those that are serving radiates from her beautiful eyes as we talk. Her innocence, her energy are contagious and I know truly, that she is a today person, that her goodness and her direction isn’t put off till tomorrow. This is a rare thing to experience these days.
Later we would we say goodbye and hug and I could still feel her warmth and compassion long after she disappeared down the road. I realize then that there is hope for our future. There are lessons to be learned. There are great things happening around us if we open our eyes, if we listen to our children and most importantly if we believe in them. I saw it today, on Highway 285 when an angel appeared and her name was Cali.