Recently a co-worker approached me because she has been thinking about doing her first 3Day this summer. She'd heard from another co-worker that I had “been involved in a few events” and she hoped that I would tell her more about it. I warned her that once I start talking about the 3Day, it might be hard to get me to stop. There are so many stories to tell and so much to say about what the event has meant to me.
She started in, as so many people do, asking about technical details:
- Do you set up your own tent?
- How do you raise all that money?
- Where does your stuff go while you walk?
- How many pairs of sneakers will I need?
I stopped her after just a few questions to explain that she can get all those answers and many more from the very detailed and very well thought-out 3Day website. I assured her that she would have more support than she could imagine from the 3Day itself as well as from other walkers, and on event from the Crew. I didn’t mind answering those questions, but I really felt that I had something more that I could give her.
I proceeded to tell her about my first walk. I wanted her to hear about that walk because it changed my life. In reality, each of the fourteen 3Day walks that I have done has affected me. They have shaped me and helped me to grow in a myriad of ways. But my first walk, in Boston in 2001, changed my vision of the world and my own role in it.
I decided to take that first 60-mile walk to honor my friend Mary Kay as she was wrapping up what we prayed would be her last treatment phase. I was driving to the Jersey shore every few weeks to be with her during chemo to help with her kids and just to be with her. I was focusing on her needs, but had begun ignoring my own. When I became committed to Mar’s care cycle, I dropped my own exercise routine. I was lamenting about that loss of balance to a friend one day as we walked into a store together. There, as we walked in the door, was a life-size cutout of two women, powerfully striding across an unseen finish line. The caption read:
“The 3Day Walk for Breast Cancer. Do something bigger than yourself.”
I am not generally a believer in signs. But hey, that was definitely a sign. I registered the next day and immediately started training and fundraising. Three months later, on May 17, 2001, I headed east to Leominster, MA. These days, walkers and crew take care of all the technical stuff in cyber land. We register online, fundraise online, get our tent assignments online, and watch safety videos online as well. But in 2001, the internets were still pretty young. Back then, all that stuff happened at a big in-person gathering of walkers that was referred to as “Day Zero”. A lot of stuff happened at the carnival of Day Zero. Everyone waited in lots of lines and began building a community. I met a man that day – another walker – with whom I have now walked and crewed for 9 years. I actually married that walker 4 years ago. I suppose you might think that’s what made my first walk so life-changing. It certainly is one way that my life changed because of that first walk. But the walk itself changed who I was and what I believed in.
That change began at Day Zero when I watched the required “safety video”. They called it a safety video because it contained all the important rules of the walking road, but it was about way more than just our safety. It was also an inspirational video. The intent of that video was to remind of us the ways that we each could build a spirit of community. Those twenty minutes were filled with examples of the ways that we could take care of one another on the event. Helping another walker set up their tent at the end of a long day was an opportunity for kindness. We could take an extra minute to hold a door open. We could show kindness by simply picking something up for someone too tired to do so him/herself. We could always find someone who needed us. The message was powerful that we had a unique opportunity in these three days to build a community of kindness and caring.
That 20-minute video shaped my weekend. I embraced the vision of kindness and I was embraced by it. For those three days, I helped to build a community of kindness. For those three days, every person really felt that s/he could make a difference in the world. We touched one another by setting up tents or by walking across a field to bring water to someone whose blister was just ‘too much’. We created a world of hope and strength simply by being kind.
Before my three days started, I was confident that I was making a difference in the fight against breast cancer with the money I had helped to raise. And I knew that I would be making a difference with the awareness that our army of walkers would raise as we walked through the communities of Massachusetts. But by the end of those three days, I had learned a lesson about making a difference that has become part of who I am. I learned that being kind is what it takes to create a community. I recharge that personal vision every time I return to the community of a 3Day event. Those events are an amazing experience in being engulfed in a community of people who have learned that kindness and giving really can make a difference. We, the walkers and crew of The3Day, have learned that finding ways to give to other people is the best way to live. When you see how simple it is to make a difference in another person’s day, you begin to realize that you really can make a difference in the world.
It isn’t always easy to translate the kindness of The3Day into the “real world” but do I try every day. Being kind can change the world. I can change the world.
I really can do something bigger than myself. And so can you.