Monday, November 6, 2017

Faith in Humanity

The oft-quoted Kathrine Switzer, long distance female trailblazer, once wrote, "If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon."

New Yorkers, doing what we do
Marathon Sunday is always one of my favorite days of the year in New York City.  I've spent these Sunday's over the last eight years that I've been here as a spectator and cheerleader, both in person and on the couch in my boot nursing my injury last year, I've been a volunteer, I went down with other marathoners and marathon volunteers to Staten Island after Sandy in 2012 after the race was canceled - and I've spent the last two years fighting to qualify for it.
Malcom, Laura's corgi, displaying her
arsenal of runner support

Next year will be my year, along with my 'sole sister' (I'm making it happen) and work wife Laura, so this year was another year spent being absolutely inspired beyond measure cheering on the sidelines.  Seeing the heart, the raw emotion, the joy, the pain, the absolute love from the sidelines and from the runners is awe inspiring.  Yesterday was dreary with relentless drizzle, but the city's heart was still out in full force for the runners.

The worst of humanity, unfortunately, occurred yesterday as well, although I confess I didn't read about it until this morning.  A domestic abuser who somehow had access to a gun because - America - murdered 26 people for doing nothing more than coming together to worship in their church on a Sunday in a small Texas town.  With victims ranging from 5 to 72 years old, the loss of the pastor's 14-year-old daughter, and the complete senseless agony of's pretty damn hard to keep your head up and your heart open.

One of the reasons the marathon is so emotionally intense is because so many of those running are running for causes or for people rooted in deep suffering and pain - running is a form of catharsis, a means of fundraising to fight disease and help the disenfranchised, and a way to honor loved ones who can't run for whatever reason.  My incredible friend Lu blew past her fundraising goal for Fred's Team, which raises money for Memorial Sloan Kettering, the hospital that helped save her life.  A family we encountered yesterday were cheering on family who were running for the NYPD and in honor of a family member who had died this year.  I can't even type that sentence without crying at the memory of them holding their marathoner as he came to the sidelines to embrace them and all of them weeping together.  Then he rolled out his quads with The Stick (see pic above), grabbed a Twizzler, and went off to conquer that Queensboro Bridge and the rest of the course.  The raw emotion and strength is unbelievable.

We're also coming up on a year since the nastiest, most devastating, most divisive, and unfortunately the most consequential election in our nation's history.  It's been a year of civil rights being decimated, casual, cruel, and constant racism & sexism, lies, and incompetence.  It's been a year of echo chambers, of not listening to each other, of a lack of civility (to say the least) in our discourse.

It's been a hard and violent year.

Shalane Flanagan, the first American woman to
win NYC since 1977, making me weep
But there is also still so much goodness - in this city, resilient as ever after last week's deadly terrorist attack in lower Manhattan, in this country, in this world.  Sometimes you just have to go out and seek it directly and soak in every last moment of it before retreating back to what sometimes seems like the relentless drudgery of the every day.  So - go out and seek it.  Cheer for runners in a race, big or small.  Play dress up with children (Karma Kids Yoga's special events are another great way to rekindle your joy).  Practice gratitude.

That's my intention for this month - the month leading to my favorite holiday.  Practice gratitude, every day, as many times a day as humanly possible.  Practice gratitude for the obvious, for the mundane, for things that don't feel at all like things for which to be grateful.  Be grateful anyway, and see what happens.  It's one of the best ways I can think of to cultivate joy and resilience in this truly crazy - in the best and worst sense of the word - world.

"Don't Give Up...Don't EVER Give Up"
Photo by the amazing Michael Pauley

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