There has to be more to life than going to work, spending money, and complaining about the weather. At least, I certainly hope there is.
Life must mean something–or even a whole lot of somethings. The actions we take and the paths we make have to contribute to some greater good, whether that is through supporting others, improving social justice, or just simply being a positive influence.
Endurance sport adds considerable meaning to my life. But, the significance of running and triathlon goes well beyond the physical acts of training and racing.
Sure, the human body is pretty amazing, and I’ve learned a lot about life while pushing the body’s limits (so goes my blog’s tagline). But, I’ve learned much more about living from the the extraordinary kindness and power of the people in the endurance community.
Over the years, John and I have met many people who do some pretty extraordinary things. In so doing, they bring meaning to their own lives–and to the lives of others.
As you read this, our friend Jeremy Schaefer is a few weeks into his run across America to raise awareness for mental illness and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). He’s running solo, with a baby jogger, from town to town, and state to state. He began in South Carolina, and as of this writing, he’s made his way to Alabama.
The physical size of America is an apt metaphor for the magnitude of Jeremy’s attempt. It seems impossible, and yet, there he is, putting one foot in front of the other. Day in. Day out. With each new town he enters, he embodies the message that the impossible is very very possible.
As he goes from town to town, he spreads awareness about living and helping those with mental illness. He tells his own story of struggling with mental illness. In a recent interview with a local news station, he emphasized that this was his purpose in running across America: to engage with local communities.
Jeremy may be running solo, but he has a growing community behind him. We recognize the enormity of the mission and the significance of the cause. We want to be a part of something this meaningful, something that has the potential to do so much good for so many others who are faced with the challenges and stigma of living with mental illness.
A few days ago, Jeremy was faced with the likelihood that he would spend Thanksgiving alone, on the side of the road. Then, his phone was stolen, cutting off an important line of contact. Amid all of this, a major storm made its way across the country along the South and right up the East Coast.
The community responded. Jeremy explains on his Facebook Page, Pretty Big Run (where you can follow along with his progress):
I’ve never been good at asking for help. And honestly until this run never realized how much is actually available, and how much help I’ve needed. Shortly after my post [about losing the phone] someone invited me to their house for Thanksgiving Dinner, provided me with an address to mail the new phone I was given [by another member of the community], and they’re driving 4 hours just to pick me up, feed me, and provide me with a Thanksgiving dinner. Then they’re bringing me 4 hours back where I was originally picked up, just so I can start running again.
Today proved to me, that even though there’s bad in this world, in my own life, the good always wins. And even though I’m out here on my own, there’s an abundance of support that genuinely cares, and even though it’s hard sometimes, all I have to do is ask.
This family generously opened up their home to Jeremy to ensure he has somewhere to stay for Thanksgiving, a holiday that symbolizes the importance of community, and the sustenance that it can provide.
Countless others have also lent support, such as the dedicated friends who help him plan his route and find safe places to stay, those who donated to his fundraising page, others who have helped him pay for hotel rooms or meals, or the Big Dog Running Company that donated a fresh supply of clothing and running shoes. These are just a few of the kindnesses from the community.
While Jeremy continues his run, we will continue to go to work, and we will very likely continue to complain about the weather. But amid the mundane details of life, we can find these extraordinary moments of meaning, when we lend support to another, or we receive the kindness of the community.
This support, this kindness is what makes life meaningful.
This human connection is why we keep putting one foot in front of the other in life’s pretty big run.
Safe travels to you, my friend! We’ve got your back.
If you’d like to donate to Jeremy’s run across America, you can do so by clicking here.
If you’d like to follow along as Jeremy runs the country, like his Facebook page, Pretty Big Run.