I spent most of last weekend volunteering with the Lansing Marathon. I realized, while there, how many different aspects of the race inspired me. First there was Dr. Virginia Beard. A week before our marathon she was at the Boston Marathon but due to the tragic events was unable to finish the last half mile of that race. It was decided that Dr. Beard would start our Lansing Marathon at the last half mile and finish what she was unable to do in Boston. She would then receive her metal that she didn’t get in Boston and lead our marathon in a moment of silence. If that wasn’t inspiring enough, she then went on to run a half marathon. When I saw all the runners standing in two rows waiting for Dr. Beard to pass by, I felt inspired.
When, in the wee morning hours inside the Lansing Center way before anyone else had arrived, I passed a police officer and his bomb trained German Shepherd inspecting the trash cans thoroughly, I felt sad, but I also felt inspired to help make this world a safer, calmer place. When I saw thousands of people in the cold, early Sunday morning lining up to run a very long race, I felt inspired.
Then there was the 15 year old that ran without any training. There was the multitude of volunteers handing out water, food, metals and blankets; not to mention “hellos”, “thank yous” and “you can do its! There was the mom standing eagerly at the very edge of the finish line who wanted to be the one to give her daughter her metal. I spent the next hour or so instructing the volunteers that when this woman’s daughter came through to let her give the runner her metal. We eyed every runner coming towards us to see if she matched this woman’s number. It was near the end of the race and it was announced that the last runner had crossed the 24 mile mark. Maybe that was her? However, a few minutes later a runner wearing all black turned the corner and headed our way. I saw the younger girl with this woman light up. “That’s her”, she yelled. Together the three of us moved closer to the finish line. Other volunteers realized this was the one we’d been waiting for and motioned for the mom to move closer. I cried as all three hugged at the finish line. How exciting that we could do this for them. That was inspiring. Twelve hours into my volunteering experience for that final day, I stood shoulder to shoulder with dozens of volunteers and family members as the last runner, after 7 long hours of running, finally crossed the finish line. She did it! And THAT, was inspiring.
Inspiration is a very personal thing. Something that moves to inspire me may not inspire you. I think that’s okay, as long as something inspires you. Yesterday I bought a new pair of running shoes.
With this project I’ve walked over 300 miles, but I’ve run none. Today I tried to use that momentum from the race to try a run. I had a section of road that would be a down and back type walk. Sometimes I use my bike for these areas. I walk my bike one way then ride back. This time I decided to run back. It was almost two miles and even though it wasn’t pretty, I did it. At one point I passed a woman working outside her house. She nodded as I came to a stop. She asked if I’d started running at Filley St. (about a mile away). I said I had. She said she thought that was a long way. I told her briefly about my project and that I decided to run back from this last walk, but that I wasn’t doing so well since I was breathing hard and needing to take a break. She said she thought I was doing great to her.
I think it’s good to really think about the things that inspire you. I also think it’s good to try to be inspiring. But the best part is when a good friend or even a stranger lets you know that they think you are inspiring too.
Inspiration Located at the Lansing City Market
Today I walked a “bad” neighborhood. The only problem is; it wasn’t. Yes, it was in one of the areas of town considered a bit rough and tumble but it didn’t seem that bad to me. Maybe it was because I was walking through this area on a very sunny, early December, Wednesday morning. I suppose living here might be different. Maybe there are stories that I could be told by residents. However, the more I continue on this walking project through Lansing the more I learn that there really isn’t a typical “Bad” neighborhood. Many times what I find is that there are a few “bad” houses that may or may not affect the area. On this walk, I passed residents and they smiled and said “hi” when I smiled and said “hi” to them. Yes, my pace might have been a bit quicker, I kept my camera discreetly hidden away and I perfected my nod and smile routine. I’ll admit that when I walked up a quaint dead end street that nestled up to the edge of the highway with only the one way in, I was a bit relieved by its isolation. But I also noticed some of the signature signs of a “safe” neighborhood: lawn ornaments, cars in good working order, cleanliness, flags, landscaping and nice people. These houses were just as ornate and positive as any “good” neighborhood. Despite all the negativity about Lansing, it seems that it doesn’t really have this heavy level of destitute and poverty that might be found in other hard hit recession Michigan cities. In fact, the more I walk the more I find quite the opposite. I find community centers that help provide services to the neighborhoods. I find non profits encouraging good and healthy behavior. I find neighborhood groups building urban gardens and promoting good habits. I also learn of family and friends buying houses in these “bad” neighborhoods and liking it there.
Now, I know it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. I did notice the abandoned belongings of homelessness under the overpasses. I know many people are without good paying jobs. I know drugs are a big issue on the streets. Maybe it is dangerous out there. Maybe my being out there is playing with fire. I was warned excessively when I first went public with this project that I was being too risky; walking in areas that are known for trouble. I trusted that I would be safe out there. I trusted that the crime issues wouldn’t really get me while I purposely walked from street to street without causing any trouble. So far Lansing hasn’t let me down. I don’t necessarily like walking in these rougher parts of town, but so far these nefarious parts haven’t lived up to their negative reputation. I hope it stays that way.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Braveheart. There are multiple lines and scenes that I consider my favorite but one seems to stand out often to me. It could be that the actor looks entirely too much like my uncle, and in fact my uncle does an identical reenactment of the scene. It’s also what this actor says. The character’s name is Stephen, The Mad Irishman and this is what he says:
“I’m the most wanted man on my island. But I’m not on my island”
“Your island? You mean Ireland?”
“Yeah, It’s MINE!”
Lansing. It’s mine. I feel like that sometimes. And looking at all the people who came out today for 2012 Adopt a River, I would guess that a lot of other people feel the exact same way. Why shouldn’t we? I’ve been thinking a lot about this need to take care of Lansing; to promote its businesses, to complete its streets, to organize rallies against crime, to organize it, to clean it and to protect it. I feel a duty to it. Not in a way like I owe it, but rather like it’s my family and when it needs help I’ll be there. This idea is similar to a family member asking me to help them. Of course I’d be there to help. So when I hear about river clean up or festival hosting or complete street forms to be filled, I’m there ready and eager to help. I’m really glad so many others in the area feel the same way.
Planting new life into the island
Board of Water and Light’s recycled art
Erik Larson-Executive Director of Impression 5
Pat and Rob Killips Senior doing their jobs for the event
I pushed it on this last walk. I went to parts of the city that I was unfamiliar with. My original intentions were to park at Meijer on South Pennsylvania and walk north to the new St. Vincent dePaul Thrift Store and then make my way back south to Meijer again. My plan was to write about resilience; the nature of a person or business or even a city like Lansing to get knocked down yet find the courage and strength to get back up. I’m not talking about getting up, dusting off and walking away. I’m talking about getting hit hard, then climbing back up and standing firmly in place, hands on hips, shoulders stiff, surrounded by loved ones. They look the adversity square in the face and say, “that really hurt, but I’m not backing down. You might have gotten a good punch in but you will not win this fight. Not only will I win but this will make me stronger. Watch this!” Man I love that idea.
In the middle of December last year the St. Vincent De Paul store located at Elm and Washington in REO Town was struck by a devastating fire. It left their building, all the donations, office supplies and a multitude of undelivered Christmas presents destroyed. In less than a day new donations were being made and social media was reposting ways community members could help. In a very short time the St. Vincent DePaul store was relocated to 5206 S. Cedar St. where over 50 volunteers and an overwhelming community support, including donations from Accident Fund ($10,000 check) and Meijer ($10,000 in gift cards and merchandise), allowed them to open their new store on January 28, 2012. The City of Lansing also donated a closed down fire station to be used as a storage facility. A church in Brighton filled a pole barn with supplies and volunteers had to make multiple trips to collect all the items. All the generosity was evident when I stopped in as two separate store fronts were full of items to be purchased at very reasonable prices. I was told by the operations manager that on their grand opening day there were over 800 sales, with all proceeds being used to help pay utilities for those that are in need! Talk about resilient.
Inspired by this, I continued this walk beyond the 3 mile, one hour stroll I usually find myself doing. Not that there is anything wrong with that. The one hour, 3 mile thing seems to be my norm as I try to fit the saunters between work and school schedules of my family. Today, however, there was no need for me to race home. I had all afternoon. Yes, I skipped lunch but I think I could bear being a little hungry. I’ve recently watched (through social media posts) a couple really good people show their resilience. I feel strengthened and encouraged when watching others suffer through circumstances with dignity and courage. Like my friend Dalia. I worked with her at Wendy’s back in high school. Tomorrow is the one year marking of the death of her son. Even thinking of what she’s been through makes me teary. Yet her messages are of hope. She offers thanks to all those who’ve helped her stand this past year. She concerns herself with the perfection of her other children’s’ birthday parties. She amazes me. That is resilience. Or another friend whose healthy daughter was taken to a regular doctor appointment for a bloated tummy and learns it’s Leukemia. Wow! Did she crumble to the ground and become unresponsive in her agony? No! She started a CaringBridge page so all of her friends could go through this experience with her. She urged her friends to raise more funds than last year for our Relay for Life team. Amazing! I know someone that recently had to give testimony about a horrific crime. It’s hard for me to think about all that he’s been through and then to be asked to stand before lawyers and judges in court to the detriment of his own safety. He did this knowing he might be putting himself and his family in harm’s way. When this all came to pass I asked his wife if he was making the right choice by coming forward. She said, “He has to do it. It’s the right thing to do. Who else will do it?” I was never more proud.
These struggles go on for everyone. Something will eventually come up. It’s really how we respond to these difficulties that prove our resilience; to look at the hardship and think I will not be taken down by this. I will not give up! I will find the silver lining, the light at the end of the tunnel and the ability to feel blessed despite the agonies.
It seemed like a little gesture; to walk an incredibly longer walk than normal, in an area I was a bit nervous to walk. There were moments during this walk where I thought I could become the victim. I even called my husband at one point just to let him know where I was just in case I didn’t return. That way he would know where to find me. I was out on a street with very little around me; no safe place to go to, with dangerously fast cars passing. I knew though, that if I continued walking I would make it home. And I did, each step inspired by the strong fight by friends and family and the Lansing community.
Photos from the walk can be found here.