Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A difference...

Today I've decided that I will share a quick story...
In 2008 I ran the NYC marathon.
I ran it again in 2009 and 2010 too.
I ran the marathon in honor of my younger brother who was diagnosed at the age of 23 with a rare pediatric cancer called Ewing's Sarcoma. 
I ran to raise funds for pediatric cancer research.

But this story isn't about my brother. This story isn't even about me, really.

This story is about a woman I "met" at the end of the marathon in 2010.
I put the word "met" in quotes because I didn't even really MEET her.
I don't know her name... Or even really remember what she looked like.

But I remember how she made me feel.

Two weeks prior to the marathon on October 22, 2010, my brother lost his battle to cancer.
On November 7th, just two weeks later, I ran the marathon on what would have been his 26th birthday.

If you look back at pictures of that marathon... they captured an amazing day with tons and tons of friends and family throughout New York City supporting me during my run.
Every photo showed a confident, steady smile on my face. Some of the pictures even looked like I was having fun.

The pictures didn't really tell the whole story. 

In the days leading up to November 7th I was in panic mode.
Grief and panic. I knew them both intimately.

After the draining weeks leading up to my brother's death and the grief that consumed me afterward... I had no idea if I would physically or emotionally be able to run this marathon.
In fact, I was SURE I couldn't.

But how could I not? This marathon along with the two previous marathons were FOR my brother.
After his death, didn't I owe it to him to run it? Of course I did.

So I ran.
It was HARD.
I wouldn't allow myself think about my brother or much of anything while I ran because I was afraid I'd break down.. that I'd have a panic attack or just lose it halfway through the run and stop...and not be able to start again.

I NEEDED to finish. That was all I needed to do.
So I ran and ran... and I finished.
I crossed the finish line.

As I walked past the finish area I was met by a small woman.
She was a race volunteer and she was there to escort me to pick up my after-race belongings.  
She started with small talk... or what she thought would be small talk.

She congratulated me for finishing... and then she asked me how the race was.
I looked at her through tear filled eyes and choked out the words,
"It was hard."

She said, "Hard?? Oh, you had a bad race?"

I said, "No, my brother died of cancer two weeks ago and today would've been his 26th birthday."

She looked at me in shock because I'm sure this was the last thing she was anticipating.

And then she hugged me.
She hugged me hard.

I couldn't control the tears that came. It was like I had held them in for 26 miles and she was there to see them all. 
She practically held me up.
She walked me to a chair and helped me find my bag.
She got me a gatorade and a bag of chips. The entire exchange between us lasted maybe ten minutes.

I don't remember many details... like her face or the color of her hair.
But what I DO remember was the kindess she extended to me.

She could've easily mumbled, "I'm sorry for your loss", handed me my bag and turned to help another finisher, but she didn't.
She wrapped her arms around me...a complete stranger ...crying... sweaty (and probably smelly after 26.2miles) ... and she hugged me.

So what's my point?

My point is...that one woman... made a huge impact on me during a pretty difficult time.

I think of that marathon day now, two years later. 
Much of it I can recall only from looking at the the pictures that were taken...everything a blur...
and yet, I can remember CLEARLY the comfort and compassion that was given to me by a total stranger.

And I've realized, it's really the little things in this life that make a big difference, isn't it?

The large things like feeding the hungry...sheltering the homeless... those things seem overwhelming and yes, they are. One single person is not capable of  accomplishing such huge, monumental tasks alone.

But starting small... one person CAN make a difference.
Something as simple as holding a door with a smile... lending a hand to someone struggling... making a meal for a neighbor...and yes, hugging someone who is hurting...  all those little things CAN make a huge impact.
And those are all things that ALL of us are capable of doing.

"At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel"

So what are we waiting for??  Let's start now! Pass it on... pay it forward.... Make a difference!

Peace, Love & RIGHT NOW

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