Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What We Leave Behind

It’s been almost a month since I held my sneakers aloft during the Chicago 3Day closing ceremony. During those weeks, I have spent 22 hours driving home and countless more hours than that getting caught up with laundry and at my job. We’ve been fundraising and training for The3Day in DC in October. My daughter and my husband have headed back to school. But in amongst all that, I just keep thinking about everything we left behind in Chicago. By “WE”, I mean the walkers and crew of the Chicago 3Day for the Cure.

We left behind a message of hope and dozens of yards of pink crepe paper and ribbons. We left behind 4.3 million dollars raised to make a difference in the fight to find a cure for breast cancer. We left behind smiling young people cheering along 60 miles of sidewalks. We left behind funding for underprivileged women in a city that really needed us. We left behind incredible memories and a powerful message that kindness really can make a difference in the world.

But in the weeks since the Chicago 3Day, I have been reflecting with sadness on something else we left behind. This was my 17th 3Day event, and every time, I am startled anew by what is left behind on Sunday morning. Piles of tarps and sleeping bags and air mattresses get left behind. Mountains of things that the people of the cities we have walked through could definitely use. Sometimes I find it painful to walk out of camp on that final morning because I have seen sneakers left abandoned – sneakers that I realize don’t have enough life in them for a 3Day walker, but that definitely have enough life for the man on the corner begging for spare change to buy some food. Every time that I pack up my stuff on that last day, I am startled by the numbers of tarps left behind by walkers and crew too tired or too dazed to squeeze them into their bags. There are enough tarps left behind in a 3Day camp to build a small tent-city for a homeless community. There are enough tarps and sleeping bags to cover all the children left homeless by last year’s earthquake in Haiti. Enough sleeping bags for all the low-income girl scouts in any city I have ever walked in. The possibilities seem endless. What so many people treat as trash can really be someone else’s live-saving treasure.

Each time that we walk or crew, Matt and I leave extra space in our luggage. On Day3, we load up with tarps that are piling up by the trashcans and we bring them home with us. We donate them to shelters in our home area. After the Chicago 3Day this year, we shipped 32 tarps in perfect condition to Haiti with a friend who was traveling there. Maybe we didn’t change the world, but at least those 32 tarps went to a good cause rather than to a landfill. In Boston this year, a local Eagle Scout made announcements at dinner about collecting leftover supplies on Day3. He made all the arrangements to pick up and then donate the goods to shelters in the area.

There are so many ways to make a difference. I’m hoping that by speaking up today, I can encourage those walkers and crew who are getting ready for the events in the coming three months to give serious thought to what is being left behind.
Here are some ways that you can make a difference:
1. Do not leave any of your own stuff behind;
2. Make plans to take a few extra items with you and donate them to a worthy cause in your own backyard (or just keep them and use them yourself, at least they won’t go to a landfill!);
3. Make plans with a local shelter for them to come to Camp on closing morning to pick up leftovers;
4. Inspire a local scout or community service organization to contact The3Day and make a big plan to make a big difference;
5. Get creative and think of some way to take all those worthwhile items and pay it forward.

It is true that we – the walkers and crew of The3Day – are definitely making a difference in the fight against breast cancer. But that doesn’t have to mean that we forget to make a difference in other fights in our world.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Great Day to be Alive

This morning, I had the privilege of being present at the memorial service for a woman I have known my whole life. Although I had known her since my childhood, I learned more about her at this memorial through the words and stories told by her daughters, who are my peers and friends. I heard the most incredible words in the stories that they told about their mom.

Both daughters remarked that they really couldn’t recall a day of their lives that their mom didn’t say these words:
“It’s a great day to be alive, isn’t it?”

Those words resonated for me. After all, isn’t that exactly why I walk and crew in the 3Day for the Cure? We each should always be grateful for and reminded that life is short, and life – every day of it – is a gift. Although I have been walking and crewing in the 3Day walks for 9 years now, I can sometimes lose touch with the very basic reason that we walk. We walk because we are the ones who can. We walk in memory of friends lost. We walk in honor of survivors fighting. We walk for the daughters we are glad to know are healthy. We walk in the hope that someday nobody will worry about losing their loved one to this disease. But really, that simple message sums it all up. We walk BECAUSE IT IS A GREAT DAY TO BE ALIVE.

So, there I was, heading into the afternoon with that thought bouncing around in my head. And off I went with my 16 year old daughter so she could practice highway driving. About half an hour into things, another car merged onto the highway without yielding and we were hit on the passenger side. I’ve never actually been in a moving car in an accident, and it was pretty frightening. I saw the accident coming and there was little I could do to stop it. My daughter, with only 4 months of driving experience, reacted exactly right, and she probably saved our lives. She didn’t swerve into the next lane where we would definitely have been collided into, spun badly around or worse. She didn’t slam on her brakes in a panic causing us to be rear-ended at highway speeds. She remained calm enough to slow us down into a gentle collision. Sure the merging car crashed into us. And yes, we were all shook up and both cars sustained damage. But it could have been so much worse.

And there it was, clear as the squashed up quarter-panel and the badly bent passenger doorframe. Clear as the light of day that we all walked away into.

It is a great day to be alive. Every. Single. Day.