It was a banner weekend. A banner weekend indeed. In one afternoon I tried to save Africa and my community. Well, honestly alone I did neither and truthfully, dedicated troops of people did both on my behalf.
I woke up Sunday morning at the ripe hour of 4:30 AM. Nerves hopping, legs twitching, the start time of my first marathon was just three hours away. More excited than nervous I dashed around the house scrambling for peanut butter, bananas and my favorite socks. I snarfed down the peanut butter, totally forgot the banana, and shoved everything else haphazardly into a bag and dashed out the door when my marathon newbie partner Nancy came to escort me into the city. We giggled, we cried a bit, we sipped water, snapped pictures and headed to the starting line.
45,000+ people. 1.7+ million spectators. The entire city of Chicago laid out before us. To say I had no idea the magnitude of this event would be to grossly underestimate my naivete. Wow. People lining the streets for 26.2 miles. Cheering, waving, hollering, dancing, passing out everything from Jolly Ranchers to Jello-shots. Entire neighborhoods dedicated to the well-being of a few thousand runners and of course, a few morning cocktails. It was bedlam and bliss all rolled into one. From Pilsen to Old Town, Boys Town to Cabrini, Lakeview to Lincoln Park.
Of course the bliss part wore off at mile 20 and the “walking counts as finishing” conversation began. And with 86 sunny degrees, a cramp in each thigh and a good friend at my side, walking now and again was a good plan. And as my mind began the inevitable tailspin that comes with a marathon I kept from crashing because people were cheering. Because my beautiful friend Liz and her family were at mile 18. Because my neighbors forever Donna and Traci were in China Town at 22. Because Michelle ambushed me somewhere around 15 and boosted my soul. Because I saw Anita, twice. And Lynne and Liz and holy cow Suanne on her bike all over the place. Ben and Jay and Ellie too.
Because people cared about it going well. Because strangers thought I might like some ice. Because the entire city rallied behind a cause. I finished.
And for a good cause too. I dashed (or shuffled) through the streets sporting the bright orange jersey of Team World Vision. Running to bring clean water to impoverished communities in Africa. My church, proud to say, raised $82,000 toward this effort. yeah yeah.
Meanwhile, back home our backyard was staked out for a new tree to be dropped into our treeless yard. Sunday was the target date set by the organization www.350.org for communities to plant 10 trees. 10 trees on 10-10-10. We were the recipients of one of those trees. A global effort acted out locally. A team of strangers digging a hole in my yard. Eating the cookies and apples I’d left for them. My heart so guilty that I could not be there to thank them in person. Reading the handwriting of a First Grader trying to say “Thank you for rour tree” was the best we could do that day.
A weekend of exhilaration and exhaustion. And to be totally cliche, a reminder that every little bit helps. That together we make a global difference. That each individual hand clap on Sunday added up to millions of cheers that ushered thousands across a finish line they suspected they might not make. That each dollar raised for charity added up big, to thousands receiving clean water (or cancer care, diabetes relief or any number of causes that day). And that a few local volunteers digging holes around the nation and world might just add up to a reduction in CO2. A global movement with local activity.
So, if you suspect this week that your claps or cheers, your plants or eco-efforts, or your smiles, prayers, hugs, winks or high fives will never be enough, rest assured that they are. They make a difference. Yes, I am an eternal optimist. It works for me and maybe you too.
Thanks to all who have lent such small yet big efforts to my life. It has made all the difference in the world.