Working to Find Courage for a Friend

This is not the post I had planned for today, but sometimes topics come up at the right time to address them. For me, it’s the difficult subject of a friend’s accident.

Life can change in an instant.

I was just at a talk given by ESPN’s senior vice president Rob King. King was addressing students on their future in journalism as part of the Hearst Fellows Award Lecture series at The University of Texas, and he was insightful, witty, inspiring, and entertaining. Even though he was giving advice to students, I found much to take away. So I sat down this morning to write a recap of his remarks.

That is, until I saw this article by beloved local fitness reporter Pam LeBlanc.

Screen Shot of Fit City Blog about Triathlete Laurie Allen
Pam LeBlanc’s article on my friend, triathlete Laurie Allen

She wrote about my friend Laurie in her Fit City piece for the day. It’s a nice article that gets the word out about Laurie’s fall, her subsequent paralysis, and the long recovery process that lies ahead for her. Laurie and her husband Matt are good people, people who live life lovingly, actively, and joyously, and I’ve often counted myself lucky to have grown to know them through years of shared suppers (and not just because Laurie’s an amazing cook).

Over the last month, lots of words have been written about what’s happened to Laurie. Facebook posts, comments on journal entries, the like. But none from me.

In King’s lecture on Tuesday, he presented several truths for the young adults listening. One, imparted to him many years ago by a mentor, was, “It’s going to work out; you just don’t know how yet.”

I’m glad that others can put words to what’s happened, to explain and offer support, but I can’t yet. I simply haven’t had those words to give. I’ve worried that my lack of public commentary can be interpreted as an absence of attention or caring. I think about Laurie and Matt constantly. I care deeply. But the truth is, that has to be private.

We live in a time where everything–likes, thoughts, support, condemnation–is public and immediate. My need to sit, stew, reflect, mull over, and sort out these overwhelming emotions is practically anachronistic. But this is my truth. My feelings need to be worked through, sorted out, and shaped into the right form; otherwise, I’m no good to Laurie. Without sorting through it, I’ll never understand how best I can help.

Though I deal with words as a craft and calling, I’ve never really felt they meant that much when it comes right down to friendship. Action is king. How I show love is more important that what I say about it. I know Laurie is grounded in action–it’s why she’s timing splits in the wheelchair, ringing the bell at each recovered sensation, because every tiny iota of improvement is verification of the right direction. After all, an Ironman is only ever completed as the result of millions of tiny actions taken along the way.

It’s not the finish line but the journey there that makes us who we are.

My hope is that the action I can bring, the thing that I can do to help Laurie when she needs it, will quietly, eventually present itself. I believe that it will, because I know there are years ahead to show love and support. Maybe what I bring is as little as making a welcome home paella in a few weeks or as much as being a regular companion for decades.

I don’t know. But I trust.

With all my being, I believe in King’s truth: It’s going to work out. And I know that, when the time is right, I will be in the right place to help my friend in the best way I can.

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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