Another note to all you marathon runners, participants, and volunteers. (My mama taught me to always write thank you notes.)
First off, what a day! I would cheer all of you on over and over again! And in cheering and being on the sidelines the other day, I learned so much from you and the experience overall that I would like to share.
I’ll admit: even though at meetings and jobs and organizations I hate wearing nametags, the marathon changed my perspective. In fact, I wish everyday we wore name tags and that it was “normal.” You see, I learned so many names as you all ran and walked passed me. I cheered for individuals. (“Go Mike!” “Go Jim!” “Go Melissa!” “Go Stephen!” “Go Mindy!”) And with each name I called there was a sense of connection for a moment. We have never met, and yet, here I am saying your name, cheering you on in a unique moment. And even though we have never personally met, me saying your name made the moment incredibly personal and intimate. I knew you and you knew me in that moment and we formed a friendship. As human beings we long for relationship and connection, leading us to The Relationship with Him.
How often do we go about day to day and neglect the others around us by simply keeping our eyes on our smartphone screens or on our individual destination? How often do I think and wonder what the passerby’s name is? And how often do I remember that she does have a name, that she is an individual, that she has a story, that we are able to connect in this moment because we are both sharing the same place and space, even if its ever so briefly on a bus, in the grocery line, at the gas station. I am guilty of forgetting that the others around me are human beings with thoughts, stories, emotions, desires just like myself.
And, let’s think about this for a moment, you wouldn’t know my story either if it hadn’t been for the marathon. Would we have passed each other and would you have known that I have survived cancer 3 times by just looking at me? And my, does it make me wonder what wonderful unknowns about the people around me that I pass daily…Oh, how the marathon reminded me and mirrored back to me the incredible ability we have as human beings to connect with one another. Do I take those daily opportunities? He took and continuously takes the time to initiate with me daily; how do I not do this for others?
To have literally thousands of you run and walk past me and to get to cheer you on personally, individually say your name was incredible. And there was something suprising that happened to me that I didn’t expect: that while I was encouraging you (friend-stranger in the moment), you encouraged me! You cheered me on, you said my name, and it suprised me. To hear my name said by a stranger-yet friend in this moment (as we are friends because of the connection now made here) was piercing. And I laughed at myself because I thought, “How do they know my name?” and then remembered that my name was posted everywhere on Mile 20, ha! And yet, I am sure that you all were suprised too as I said your name, momentarily forgetting that you name (or comical nickname) was typed above your marathon runner number.
As I said your name and cheered you on, I also saw the deeper value of encouragement, wading deeper into its rivers, shifting, shifting its words-worth of gold. The Bible calls us to encourage one another, the orginial Greek being one of my favorite words, parakaleō, that is, “to call alongside,” “to strengthen.” How vitally important this encouragement you received from me (saying your name, cheering you on) was to you! I could see it as I gave you a high five, you heard me call your name and when you say saw the mile marker 20. And later, I learned from a vetran marathon runner (he has ran the marathon 16 times!) how mile 20 is a critical time where the runner is wavering, is close to seeing that finish line (only 6 more miles to go!) and yet still needs to derive power and energy to finish. This encouragement, the cheers from my friends, family and myself, were as life-giving to you just as water or food or rest would have been in that moment. For many of you, after you got a high five or heard a cheer, your pace picked back up, the energy resurging back to your calves, the drive and motivation again pumping from heart to mind to body (determination). And oh, how quickly and easily I forget that words of encouragement are so critical in this way. Do I encourage those around me daily? And if I did, how much life would come about in theirs and mine? And, oh, how much as this past year’s encouragement from others around me—in person, over phone, through older Christian writers and leaders—has revived me just like my small cheer did for you! No wonder there is the deep call and commitment to encourage, to literally strengthen one another with our words. What a simple and yet honored privledge!
Oh, how I could continue to go on and on about the race itself and just the pure amount of fun I had cheering and yelling and bell-ringing with my family and friends. Thank you all so much for your discipline in training and raising money that benefit so many patients and families like myself! To have thousands of runners and walkers to come to support is truly incredible!