LONG WALK: REMEMBERING NELSON MANDELA

Thursday, December 5, 2013

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One reason I am grateful for my liberal arts education is that someone made me read A Long Walk to Freedom.  Unfortunately, I don’t think I would’ve ever picked up Nelson Mandela’s 600 page autobiography if it hadn’t been on my History of Southern Africa course syllabus.

After I learned of Nelson Mandela’s death I drove home and found my copy of the book.  My name is written on the inside cover and I notice my handwriting looks a bit different now.  I start paging through it.

Terrible news came out of the Central African Republic today.  A colleague called to ask if I’d heard.  One hundred people are dead.  He tells me the story of a three-year-old boy whose legs are cut off right in front of his father.  The child bled to death.

I have a global career that every so often touches pieces of stories not altogether unlike this one.  And while I often find myself optimistic about the trajectory of our world, sometimes it all becomes just a bit too heavy.

We have covered much ground, but there is still a great deal of room for healing, for reconciliation, for hope.  There is a certain sadness knowing that Nelson Mandela’s presence, guidance and insight would be so exceptionally helpful as we collectively, as a world, navigate the way forward.

But, for tonight, what I have is a very heavy book and the hope that his memory might lead us, each in our own way, to involvement.  Maybe it’s taking an extra moment to understand a point-of-view that is different to ours or purchasing a Christmas gift that will make a difference for someone else far, far away or maybe it’s simply holding our nearest and dearest extra close this holiday season.

I’m hopeful that Nelson Mandela’s life will continue to remind us that in the face of really, really heavy times, we can choose involvement – trusting that in some small way our action matters.

 

 

[ In case you're looking for gifts that do good, here are a few from UNICEF, Oxfam, World Wildlife Fund, St. Jude's, Heifer International, Every Mother Counts and World Bicycle Relief. ]

LANDED: INDIA

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It’s time to catch up on this fall’s travel.  First up:  India.

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I’ve just landed in Newark after a last minute trip to India.

I haven’t been to India since 2010, but that year I travelled to the subcontinent several times.  My final trip in 2010 marked the end of my time with the organization I was working for.  I remember driving to a tiny airport to start the journey home and thinking that I may very well never come back to that corner of northeast India.  Never say never, I suppose.

There is no quick way to get home to the east coast from India.  My route of choice was on Continental flight  #83 (now United flight #83), a direct fifteen-hour hop from Delhi to Newark. On each trip, a dear friend and I would touch down at 4:30 a.m. in Newark and then race to the Terminal C Dunkin Donuts.  After a couple of weeks of eating hard-boiled eggs for breakfast, a sugary treat was so thoroughly enjoyable.  I miss my sidekick this morning.

I was unsure of what to expect during this trip.  Should I anticipate progress and change and development in the community where we work?  Should I brace myself for sameness?

I’m still sorting through the trip, what I saw and where I fit into all of it.  India is overwhelming – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the masses – and, quite frankly, sometimes I just don’t know what to do with it.  But, this morning, I am feeling so grateful for the people I’ve traveled with and come to know in India – people who I’ve shared terrible Indian beer with and fought malaria-carrying mosquitos with, people who I have seen world wonders and witnessed heartbreaking poverty with, people who have (rightfully) put a cap on my pashmina spending, people who have introduced me to the delicacy that is garlic naan, but most importantly, people who have been courageous enough to believe that in the midst of very dark circumstances, change is possible.  In the center of a chaotic city, there are a group of men and women working quietly day in and day out extending hope in a profoundly tangible way to a group of very poor, very marginalized people.  And I am profoundly grateful to know them.

THANKSGIVING

Thursday, November 28, 2013

old vine zin“I am thankful for what I am and what I have.  My thanksgiving is perpetual.”

- Henry David Thoreau

My aunt shared these words with me over a glass of wine before Thanksgiving dinner.  Words to carry as we transition into the Christmas season.  As retailers open, Black Friday sales beckon and our posture shifts from thanksgiving for what we have to writing lists of what we want, this statement is a gentle reminder to self –a reorientation to gratitude, if you will.

Happy Thanksgiving.

LONG RUN: CALM

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

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A friend of mine had to drive over a bridge each morning on the way to high school.  He said that the conditions of the bay in the morning foreshadowed the type of day he would go on to have.  Rough water, rough day.  Calm water, calm day.

The weather has turned and we are getting our first glimpse of winter.  The thermometer hasn’t risen out of the 30s in the past couple of days.   After spending the better part of the last month traveling, this feels rather abrupt.

Last night I layered up and set out for my favorite running trail.  Cold weather is a great motivator to pick up the pace.  The first mile I could feel myself trying to outrun the chill.  I was warm enough on my way back in to stop and watched the sunset.  The water was as calm as I’ve ever seen it – so still it looked like glass.

With the holidays fast approaching, I took this to be a good omen.  Perhaps a calm holiday season is ahead?

While that seems an almost laughable possibility, the water’s stillness was a much needed reminder that it is possible to create my own “all is calm” moments in the midst of holiday (or any manner of) craziness.  So here’s to bundling up, lacing up and getting out the door.

LANDED: SAN FRANCISCO

Friday, October 18, 2013

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We’ve spent the past few days in California wine country and just arrived in San Francisco for the Nike Women’s Marathon.  I couldn’t be more excited to cheer on the nearly 3,000 Team In Training runners that will be taking to the streets of this city on Sunday.

RACE DAY: CHICAGO MARATHON

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

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On Sunday, I had the privilege of lacing up and heading out onto the Chicago Marathon course as a coach of a charity running team.  One of my favorite things about Team In Training is the course support that runners receive.  There are coaches at every mile cheering on runners, hopping in to run with those that are struggling and offering words of encouragement to anyone that needs them.

As I left the hotel Sunday morning and escorted participants to Grant Park, I found myself thinking about what a sacred, vulnerable space marathon miles are.  Individuals find themselves at the starting line for so many reasons — running in remembrance of a loved one, on behalf of a cause that is near and dear, in honor of a personal transformation or in pursuit of a goal that once seemed impossible – and this quest for a marathon finish demands nothing less than a commitment and offering up of our whole selves.  Regardless of pace or finish time, this resolve is something I find to be incredibly beautiful.

On Sunday I hopped in with a first time marathoner near the end of the race.  She was moving forward, but was quite clearly in a lot of pain.  Well into mile 25, I knew she would finish, but as she started talking to me I could tell that she was on the verge of tears.  I reminded her that she was making progress by walking and that in a matter of a few minutes she would complete the race.  She started to cry and told me she didn’t think she could run anymore.  I reassured her that this was her race and she got to finish it on her terms, but regardless of how she got there she would most certainly make it to the finish line.  I was mid-sentence when she took off – she just started running.  She turned over her shoulder to look at me, then pointed and shouted, “My family!”  Sure enough her whole pack was just at the side of the road and she ran over to be greeted by hugs, shouts, tearful cheers and all manner of hoopla.  Then, off she went with a huge grin on her face, running along to complete her first marathon.

We commit, we run, we push, we feel as if we are on the verge of breaking but we are not broken.  We are sustained by the endurance we’ve built, we hold tight to the reasons that led us to the starting line in the first place, we are tucked in by spectators, and we are held up by our pack.  What sacred moments, indeed.

LANDED: CHICAGO

Friday, October 11, 2013

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Ryan has been fixated on the idea of visiting Chicago for five years and I’m happy to report that our initial impressions of the city are living up to his expectations.  So far we have sipped on handcrafted whisky cocktails at a speakeasy, eaten our weight in queso fundido and spent time with dear friends who moved here from Baltimore.

Next up:  The Chicago Marathon!

PETRA

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

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I traveled to Jordan five years ago and wasn’t able to fit in a trip to Petra.  I’ve regretted it ever since.  I arrived at Petra in the late morning, dropped my bags at the hotel and headed straight to the entrance.  I knew absolutely nothing about Petra and, uncharacteristically, I invested no time in learning about the place in advance.

The air of mystique of this ancient city was magnified by my lack of understanding.  I had no explanation for why there were Hellenistic-style buildings carved into red rock faces.  I didn’t have any idea why there were columns topped with elephants or a carving of Medusa.  I was mystified to find an 8,000 seat coliseum in this isolated mountain valley.  Not knowing allowed me to walk around in an almost constant state of wonder, interrupted only by pushy donkey owners offering a ride and children selling post cards.

I walked and walked and walked.  I expected Petra to be the one iconic building from Indiana Jones and perhaps a few other crumbling columns and porticoes.  I was dead wrong.  Petra is a city, a no kidding city – several miles from one end to the other with buildings nestled around the floor of the rock canyon and homes scattered all the way up the rock face to the top of the mountain.

After seven hours of walking, my shoes were full of sand and my legs were tired.  I ran out of water while I was still a few miles from the exit.  With the temperature nearing 100 and feeling the onset of dehydration, I knew it was time to start the hike out.  I reached the exit, purchased a coca cola and plopped down on the sidewalk, absolutely exhausted.  I woke up the next morning feeling like I had run a marathon.  My joints were sore and my legs ached, but I couldn’t get wait to get back in and explore some more.

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LANDED: AMMAN, JORDAN

Monday, September 23, 2013

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I’ve spent the past week in Jordan eating hummus for breakfast, lunch and dinner and enjoying every minute of it.  The view from my room in Amman is spectacular.  The only advantage of waking up each morning at 3am from jet lag is watching the sun come over the horizon and wash the white stone buildings in light.  More to come soon!

WORDS 02: FEAR

Friday, September 20, 2013

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I’ve had these words from six time Ironman World Champion, Mark Allen, up in my office for almost a year and each time I read them, I am grateful for the reminder — feel the fear, move through it.

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