So, I ran my 10K on Sunday.
It was so much better than I thought it would be. Although let me just say that I still hate running, I still felt like puking and I still am not good at it.
But I did have one intense moment as I started up a hill nearing mile three. And I started to cry.
I, Kristin, who did not cry when saying goodbye to my best childhood friend as she moved away, or at my graduation, when I left for college, when I got engaged or married, or at the birth of any of my children, cried in the middle of a 6.2 mile race called The Chocoholic Frolic.
As I pushed up the hill before the 3 mile mark, I could hear a growing cheer from the runners in front of me. It rippled back toward me, swallowed me up and rolled on back to the runners behind me. Lagging slightly behind the cheers were the forerunners of the 10K (you know, those people who finished in half my time). They slammed into our cheers and flew past us, focused intently on the end goal. At that moment, a single sentence burst into my thoughts:
Feel the power of humanity striving toward a common goal.
And I let out a sob. A legitimate, audible sob.
Yeah, I don’t know what happened. That has never happened to me before, and it caught me completely off guard. Perhaps I could blame it on the perfectly timed crescendo of the refrain of Kryptonite from my Live Pandora station with the crescendo of the cheering crowd of runners. Or perhaps, the physical and emotional fatigue of preparing for something challenging made me particularly vulnerable.
But really, I think it was the thrill of feeling the power of 1000 people working hard to accomplish something personally challenging all together, and cheering each other on rather than fighting for notariety. And then, the profoundly sad realization that this power remains largely untapped.
The rest of the run, I couldn’t help wondering what our world would be like if the collective we approached injustice, suffering, conflict and pain with that same fervor, excitement and willingness to run together. What if we all recognized the naturally gifted leaders, and cheering, followed them despite the hard work it is for those of us less gifted? What if, instead of fighting to be the winner and garner our own followers, we put aside our egos and were willing to work together, albeit imperfectly and messily, toward a common, challenging goal?
Think of the impact. Think of the beauty. Think of the change we could bring about. The potential was suffocating to think about.
As an extreme introvert, it was a humbling run to realize how much I need community. I can’t do it myself. And why should I, after witnessing the power of many? We let so many unimportant details hinder the bigger, more important work. And in the name of being right (or at least making sure others know we think they are wrong) we lose the potential to make a real, tangible difference: to bring the healing and reconciliation we are called – and created – to bring.
One hour, 3 minutes and 55 seconds after I started my race, as I dry heaved across the finish line, trying desperately not to throw up all over the volunteers passing out chocolate bars, I made a promise.
I will listen more, enter into the messy work of community more, and watch intensely for ways open up my arms and ask others to join me.