The other morning, I visited my local drive-up coffee hut. It’s a tiny little one-room shack, reminding me - and those of us old enough to recall them - of a Fotomat booth. There’s just enough space inside for an espresso machine, a fridge and the nice man, Scott, who appears at the window with a bright smile each time I arrive. This morning, he came to the window, already tamping the espresso for my latte. He smiled and said, “skim latte, right?” I smiled my agreement and he went about preparing my coffee. I sat back in my car and reveled in the warm feeling of being recognized.
When someone greets us with a smile, and a “Your usual?” it makes us feel important, right? That acknowledgement and recognition makes us feel special. The reality is that all it means is that I drink the same thing all the time, I go to the same place often enough, and the guy that works there is good at his job. But there is another reality. I revel in the feeling of being known. Of course, the fact that Scott knows how I like my coffee doesn’t really mean that he knows me, but it does trigger that feeling. And I have come to learn that, for me, being known is deeply valued thing. I think it is for all of us.
I first came to a place of feeling known during my first 3Day Walk in Boston in 2001.
During the year leading up to my first 3Day Walk, I was facing some big questions about who I was and how I was living in the world. One of the things I was realizing was that I didn’t like the way I felt about myself. I had begun to come to a recognition that I often felt as though I was more separate from others than I wished. I had started to notice that there were many times that I would feel that all around me were people connecting with one another while I stood outside the circle, wishing I was inside the circle, but equally sure that those people inside the circle didn’t even know I was there. I knew I didn’t want my life to keep feeling that way, and I became determined to change it.
During the months of training for my first 3Day, I began to think about ways that I could make even more meaning of the event for myself. And so, I made myself a promise to be outgoing and have confidence that the people I was meeting were going to be interested in knowing me. It was an important self-promise, the words in my head were “whoever you meet will be as interested in meeting you as you are in meeting them.” This wasn’t really how I saw myself in the world, but it was how I wanted to be. It scared me a bit to try and be this person. But I also knew that I really did believe that I was interesting. I really believed that I had interesting things to say. But at the same time, I wasn’t very good at trusting that anyone would really be all that interested in listening to me. But that was who I wanted to be. And so I made myself that promise. I figured that it was just three days, and I could do anything for 3Days. It’s funny, I was more frightened about living up to that promise than I was about walking 60 miles.
And so, for 3 days, I met people – and really the world – believing in myself and believing that people wanted to know me. I listened intently to each person that I met. I responded to those people with intention. I spoke up, I shared stories about myself and about my life, and I rejoiced in becoming known. Those 3 days were the start of a gigantic journey. I journeyed 60 miles on foot and a lifetime in my heart. What I discovered was that I can be known. I can be the person I wanted to be. I don’t have to be outside of any circles.
And here’s the big lesson in all this. Maybe you are preparing right now for your first 3Day Walk. Maybe you are preparing for your tenth. Maybe you are a dedicated 3Day Crew member. Maybe you are a 3Day supporter, or maybe you are just curious. It doesn’t matter, really. What matters is this: in life, you must consider who you are and who you hope to be. And then go out and become that person. The 3Day is the ideal community within which to do this, because the people on the event are all committed to a brighter world. But really, the opportunities to reach your own goals exist everywhere in our lives. Whether it is The 3day, or simply the next three days of your life – whichever it is, you can make yourself any promise you need to. You deserve to be the person you dream of being. We all do.