I was driving down the street the other morning and I could hear an ambulance coming in the distance. I saw it up ahead coming towards me in the opposite lane. I pulled over, the cars in front of me and behind me pulled over, and the cars in the other lane pulled over. I think it's safe for me to assume that those other drivers and I were in a similar frame of mind: thinking about the day, thinking about where they were heading, listening to the news, listening to a podcast, anxious about a meeting, worrying about a kid--in other words, otherwise occupied. And then we are all pulled into this moment together by the sound of the siren. Where is it coming from? Is it an ambulance? A police car? And then we spot it and we move over and we wait. We wait patiently, collectively. I'm sitting there on the side of road in my car as the ambulance gets closer and louder and drives fast down the middle of the street on the clear path we all made together, and I suddenly got all choked up. A fellow citizen is in trouble, and other fellow citizens went to school and trained to respond to that kind of situation, and we all help by getting the hell out of the way so they can get where they need to go. This is community. This is the best of community.
It's easy to get caught up in the weight of the world. So many new issues have risen up, and so many things we thought we had battled and then moved into newer, kinder, more progressive spheres seem to be sliding backwards at alarming rates. Power and fear have hit a high, and I'm so tempted to retreat. But I remember Mr Rogers on prime time television after 9/11 encouraging adults to have their children look for the helpers. It wasn't to write off a tragedy, it was a tool his mother had given him to be able to find courage in the face of difficulty. It was a reminder that there are many, many more people of kindness than there are of darkness.
One of the my favorite things to do that serves this purpose is to go out and watch a marathon. I happily stay on the course for hours--moving to different spots, cheering until my hands hurt from clapping and my voice is hoarse from yelling. The runners are inspiring--from elite to back of the pack. But mostly I am there for the community. The gathering of tens of thousands of people across 26.2 miles, all showing up for the sole purpose of encouraging and cheering on their fellow citizens in pursuit of a goal or a dream. And those fellow citizens, those runners, each and every one of them are carrying a story of why they are there--you can almost read it on their faces--and it brings me to tears every single time. It's part of how I fill my bucket every year, and there is no denying the earnestness and largeness of spirit that we humans have when you stand along a marathon course.
Generally speaking, and I'm biased (but I'm also right!), runners are good people. It's a really special thing to be a part of a running community, and boy do we ever need community now. And I am lucky enough to be sitting at a coffee shop writing this before heading to the first meeting for the running camp I am attending. We are meeting at the team house because we will be a team for the next few days. For all the hesitation I'm feeling, I am mostly excited and grateful. I am going to be running and learning, but the most important thing is that I'm going to be a part of a community--a community of people who are all earnestly working towards goals and aspirations, who are supportive of everyone who shows up, and who, like the marathon, will bolster my belief in human nature.