Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I Bought A FREE Newsletter

As I pulled into the McDonald's drive-thru, exhaust fumes filling my senses I noticed a man standing on the sidewalk. Lonely, and broken he carried a weathered American flag. Strands of red and white whipped with age through the cold breeze. I placed my artery clogging order, a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, and drove my car around the clean concrete corridor. The man was now face-to-face with his reflection in my car's passenger window. I glanced at the his calloused clothing, full of patches, and crude sewing jobs. Admittedly, I usually cringe seeing people give money to highway exit bums, and other society failures. I don't know why, but there was something different about this guy. It was the desperation in his eyes.

The idea that he's at a point in his life where he's standing outside of McDonald's selling a FREE newsletter to earn money dug a trench into me. I rolled down the window and gave the man a five dollar bill. I know, I know. Why didn't I just give him food? For one thing, what if he didn't like what I bought him? Too many people will instantly turn their noses up at the idea that homeless and underprivileged families deserve choice. I've heard it, and said it myself: "Take what you get." There's plenty of truth in that ideology, but it's too common to take the human out of someone because they're in a different situation than yourself. We all have different tastes, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I have a few special people in my life that have always given me advice that I'll never forget. This particular advice came years ago from an inspiring, hard working, successful single-mother of six: "You can't speculate what happens to the money you give because it doesn't matter. What matters is that you unselfishly gave what you had to give." - K.M.

Why does this matter as a runner? Because running can be life changing. As a community we can change lives. We can help each other stride-for-stride. You don't have to be homeless, or poor to need help. Sometimes people in your life are going through times they could use help with. Divorce, bankruptcy, or even something as simple as their dog dying, or drama at work. The next time you're out on a run, think about it. Maybe you're the one that needs help. Running lends every runner with plenty of miles to be all ears.

Here are several organizations, and events that help others through running. See what you can do to help.

Dock St. Walking & Running. Website
This organization responds to the need for an athletic community that raises awareness of homelessness and self-empowerment. Dock St. Walking & Running serves as a friendly, non-competitive group where people of all kinds run together to be energized, think positive, get motivated, and gain the inspiration to get their life back on track.

Medals 4 Mettle. Website
Medals4Mettle (M4M) is a non-profit organization that facilitates the gifting of marathon, half marathon, and triathlon finishers’ medals. Runners from around the world give their hard earned medals to Medals4Mettle. Our worldwide network of physicians and volunteers then awards these medals attached to a Medals4Mettle ribbon to children and adults fighting debilitating illnesses who might not be able to run a race, but are in a race of their own just to continue to live their life. It is in honor of this mettle and courage in bravely facing these challenges that they are awarded a medal.

Back on My Feet. Website
Back on My Feet (BoMF) is a national nonprofit organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change in their lives that results in employment and independent living.
The organization’s mission is not to create runners within the homeless population, but to use running to create self-sufficiency in the lives of those experiencing homelessness. The program’s success is measured by how many Members achieve independence through employment and housing.

Can Do 5k. Website
Your registration, donation, or sponsorship provides funds for programs that support the mission of Northwest Special Families and the Northshore YMCA. NSF activities serve over 100 families in the local area, with special needs such as Down Syndrome, sensory integration disorder, autism, cerebral palsy, and genetic disorders, to name a few. We offer monthly family dinners with professional childcare, family outings, special events such as Special Santa, Moms outings, Dads outings, and sibling workshops.

MMRF. Website
Held annually in nine cities across the country -- Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, St. Louis, Tri-State (New Canaan, CT), Twin Cities, and Washington, DC -- this family friendly 5K walk/run raises both awareness and funds for multiple myeloma. Since its inception in 2001 in Chicago, the MMRF Race for Research program has raised more than $17 million to support the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation’s urgent work. Participation offers camaraderie and knowledge sharing for patients, patient family members and friends, members of the myeloma community, and others.