The Art

I have been fairly quiet on the “share my opinion front” lately.  Not because I haven’t don’t have strong and valid opinions. But, I have been quiet.

I have been quiet mostly because I am heartbroken.

Not because of who is or is not the President of the United States, or because of Cabinet choices, or because of border walls, or because of Supreme Court nominees.

I am just heartbroken.

I have spent a good portion of my life in school. From grade school to graduate school and beyond, I attended school for a long time.  I finished classes I liked and classes I didn’t like.  I sat through courses that seemed to fit within my world and courses that – at the time – I thought did nothing but take my tuition money without giving me back anything.  I wrote papers on assigned topics that – at the time – I raced through and completed with little joy and more angry annoyance.  I participated in group projects that – at the time – seemed to be nothing more than a waste of good daylight.  I was quite sure – at the time – that I was often learning little to nothing, just moving towards that golden finish line.

And throughout umpteen years of classes – on subjects I enjoyed and subjects I didn’t enjoy – one of the most important lessons embedded in each course – unbeknownst to me – was a particular art, a foundational concept, a core value that I prize and value now.

School isn’t the only place where the practice of teaching of this art can be found.  In fact, school is only one of the places where it occurs.  But, for me – a person who thought college was more of an avocation than a temporary stop – it was one of my primary sources.

Looking back, I can see that I was being exposed to the art of collaboration.

I was learning how to play well and get along with others.

There were many times that I was quite unsuccessful.  I didn’t like someone in my group, or I didn’t finish my work on time and didn’t like the consequences, or I thought the method of teaching and learning was trite.

I often behaved badly and made some very basic mistakes.  With each new class and each new professor, I was offered the opportunity to try again and again.  And gradually as I practiced the art of collaboration, I learned how to navigate different types of circumstances more successfully than when I started.

My heart is broken because I think I am witnessing the denigration of the art of collaboration.

Each and every day, there are countless opportunities for people all over this nation and any nation to come together, open their minds and their hearts, and work together for the greater good.

The United States has resources available to create the best collaboration activities we have ever experienced.   We have great minds.  We have the ways and means to collect those great minds.  We have communication tools that can bring in top-notch research.  We have technology to beat the band.

We have both opportunity and need.  We have problems looming.  We must find solutions and find them soon.

Instead, I have witnessed too many attempts to spoil and squash the art of collaboration.  I listen to heavy duty name-calling. I watch grown-up pouting. I see stubborn streaks.  There is bullying occurring from every direction.  No one is listening and everyone is talking too much!  There are language violations, research violations, manner violations, and decorum violations. Instead of fighting for what’s right, good, and just, we are fighting each other.

And then there is violence.  I am brought to tears by the wave of violence happening in my country.

I have promised myself that my job is to participate.  I will not sit on the sideline.  I will not wait and see.  I will be a person who is a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.

But I am asking myself to utlize all that was taught to me by those who walked before me.

I will listen to understand the best parts of the viewpoints of others.

I will research and read to fully acquaint myself with the topic at hand.

I will speak politely, professionally, and honestly.

I won’t hide my thoughts and ideas, but I will present them with the highest level of civility and manners possible.

I will recognize that there is more than one right answer and that sometimes, my way will not be selected as the current path.

I will acknowledge that there are individuals who are way more intelligent than me.

I will seek to find the goodness in others, for it is there.

I will remain hopeful, even when my heart is breaking.

I will not support violence.  Ever.

16143593_10100549739145352_3270825019241925183_o

Thank you to my young daughter who created this sign.

The Untold Stories of the Word of the Year

“Challenge.  It’s my word for 2015,” she said.

At that moment, for reasons I cannot explain, we knew that the conversation to follow would be memorable.  It was just clear that the four of us had moved from frivolous, fun, no-direction chatter to a much higher, sequential, magical plane.  We were about to discuss life and its importance. And from my vantage point, we weren’t disappointed with what followed.

Her plan was to select one word.  Just one word.  She would use that one word as a guide, a beacon for her journey from January until December.  She offered no additional rules, and asked if we wanted to participate.  Just choose one word and keep a steadfast focus on that word until the end of the year.  We all nodded in agreement.

In less than one week, my three friends had landed on their words: Challenge . . . Change . . . Zen, all intriguing, inspiring, daring, complex choices. But, within the same week,  I was still in some type of holding pattern.  Wordless.

Along with starting off 2015 searching for the right word, it just happened that I had been reading some very interesting writing.  A blog, familiar to me in the year past, was detailing circumstances in countries beyond my experiences.  The topics varied from post to post with what I identified as a golden thread of humanity holding it all together.  I would see the photos and read the words, and quickly my mind was blurring with thoughts.

Suddenly, I had a plethora of potential 2015 word possibilities: free, help, center, food, happy, others, world, poverty, irony, give, get, lost, woman.  The more I read, the more words floated to the top.  Now, my problem was no longer a lack of words; it was finding and selecting the right word from the crowded list.

Hmmm . . . what to do . . . .

Though my friend provided no particular rules, by default there seems to be a couple.  First, the one word that I choose must fit all occasions.  It must be able to balance between moments of distinct joy and happiness as well as moments of considerable pain and sadness.  The word must be able to lead me to new adventures, remind me of the difference between good and evil, give me an anchor when I need it, and allow me to laugh, love, and learn throughout an entire year.  It should be bold, blessed, and at times, comical . . . humorous . . . fun.   It should have an intent.

Even with knowledge and consideration of such rules, the days of 2015 began to pass in rapid succession without me finalizing my pick.  I truly was headed towards a million choices and not the selection of one, floundering in a pile of words, until . . . today.

In an odd moment early this morning, I found my word.  I happened to be walking through a snow-covered field at 7:45am.  It was a quiet moment.  The snow had settled, the morning had no wind, and the hour was too early for any traffic. The sun was peeking over a ridge of barren trees and a lonely bird swooned overhead.  It was a picturesque moment, an outdoor winter splendor.

A Crazy-Funny Winter Moment

A Crazy-Funny Winter Moment

Regardless of the extent of the beauty before me, my attitude was not following in kind.  My feet were cold, my shoes were wet.  The 6+ inches of snow buried the trail for my walk, and each step felt like I was trudging through cement moments before it solidified. My iPod blared out all the wrong music, but with a temperature below zero, I wasn’t about to remove my gloves to change it.  And the struggle in walking through the mounds of snow was causing me to be what I thought was late for my eventual rendezvous with my family – who were all comfortably inside about two miles away.

In that moment, at that time, just as my frustrations were nearly getting the best of me, it happened.  After nearly fifty days and after some interesting thinking on my part, I found that one word that I could hang my hat on for the rest of 2015.  As a matter of course, the one word is actually two, but its essence fits the bill.

So for 2015, I am going with crazy-funny.

For good or for bad, I have a tendency towards the serious side of things.  No doubt, I often see the world as having many challenges and problems.  And I know, deep in my heart,  that I must do all I can to help solve and resolve issues that press at all humans.  I must focus on the greater good at all times, lending all of my talents and treasures to such. It is easy to know that I all should do so.  But it is difficult to follow through with that focus for all of us. –  always.

That’s where my word crazy-funny works for me.

As I seek the greater good, I can see that it is important to laugh – laugh at myself, at life, at the crazy-funny situations that happen each moment.  This morning, I had chosen to walk to my destination through that snow-covered field.  I should have known that the entire experience was going to be nothing more than a crazy-funny circumstance and have expected nothing more.

Once I started to laugh at the strange pickle I was in, (wading through piles of snow with an attitude that was creating a huge weight around my neck), my trek became my pleasure.  It was a classic crazy-funny moment.  It just depended on how I looked at it.  Seeing it as crazy-funny made it so.  Still the same amount of snow, still the same distance, still the same challenges with walking, but it was all different because of the way I interpreted it.

I am hoping that my word choice will allow me  – and force me – to look at my 2015 with a truly different vision. Here’s hoping that I can hold onto the crazy-funny year ahead of me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature and History

The view was nothing shy of spectacular.  And it was certainly not what I had expected to see.  I stood quietly with my companions for what can be described as more than awhile – with only the steady clicks of our cameras interrupting the silence.

The day was ending with evening approaching much more quickly than any of us desired.  Soon our tour would be over, and the six of us would be headed back from whence we came.  Thankfully, from beginning to end, the weather had kindly cooperated, offering us a smattering of sunshine, wind, clouds, and rain.  Eighty degrees and balmy would have been ideal, but autumn is a season of surprise when it comes to outdoor conditions, and we were prepared.

In the last of the moments, I still had not come to terms with the landscape surrounding me.  The cliffs were more than beautiful; the water calmly lapping their edge.  A lone bird was swirling back and forth, seeming to have no particular destination.  And it was quiet . . . so quiet.

I thought I was going to see something quite different.  In fact, I was most positive that the experience was going to be one hundred and eight degrees away from what the experience actually was.  Part of my quiet was due to my inability to quickly move from my past expectation to my current reality.

I knew that to visit this site meant that I would be stepping on ground where many – too many to count – had died before me.  I just didn’t know what to expect.  World War II started and ended well before I was born with every subsequent generation since June 6th, 1944 having chronicled the horrific battles that transpired on and near Omaha Beach.  All six of us had studied the history well in preparation.  But, it absolutely did not prepare me.

I saw magnificent colors in the water swells.  I saw green, moss-covered cliffs with auburn, crimson, and turquoise hues.  I saw a blue and white-painted sky with moments of gray pushing towards shore.  I saw serenity, peace,and calm.  I saw majesty.

I listened as our most reverent tour guide spoke about lost lives on Omaha Beach.  He mentioned those who scaled the cliffs in twenty minutes and survived both the climb as well as enemy fire. And he mentioned those who did not survive.  He described the men who exited their boats and headed towards sure-death on the beach.  He described the deafening sounds of that day, as all sorts of explosives were launched from sea to shore and shore to sea.  The more he spoke, the more I realized that all the ground around me – as well as the tiny piece beneath my feet – held the memory of the death of many.  My heart ached – and still does ache – for all of those who died in pursuit of freedom for others including me.

Yet, when I looked out towards the horizon, I saw beauty.  In fact, the nearby rock formations were mesmerizing.  Likewise were the sandy shores and the surrounding vegetation. Here and there were tiny cottages, some vacant, some inhabited, all that clearly had stunning views of the Omaha Beach of today.  There were many memorials to those who had fallen in service to their country seventy years earlier, all of which were impeccably landscaped and maintained.  A scenic coastline, serpentine road cut through the hillside, bringing visitors like me to see and experience the history of the area.

I must admit that I still have not come to terms in any way with Omaha Beach’s unbelievable beauty juxtaposed with the reality of the heightened degree of suffering and death that occurred in the same place.

Perhaps the generations that follow me will offer greater clarity and understanding of how we, as humans, can come to some understanding of the balance between nature and history.  I know for me it is something that I will ponder for much time to come.

The Cliffs of Omaha Beach

The Cliffs of Omaha Beach

The Family Dance

For me, it was that incredible memorable family dance moment.

The band was playing what could easily be described as the music of many – the type familiar and beloved by both the young and the old, not too loud and not too slow – music for the ages.

The reception was in full swing. And at that particular moment, I looked around and noticed it immediately: all of us on the dance floor were related. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, sons, daughters, moms, dads, and grandchildren. All of us were happy, laughing, smiling, and . . . dancing.

Admittedly, we could have never described the dance we were dancing as organized.  It wasn’t refined, or symmetrical. It wasn’t pretty, cultured, or structured.  In fact, if analyzed, it was fairly clunky and chunky.  No one had rehearsed, and although the family talents are many, there are no professional dancers in the mix.  Just a group of folks ranging in age from zero to 80+ who were happy, laughing, smiling, and  . . . dancing.

And, of course, it wasn’t dancing in the very traditional sense.  Rather than pairing up in a Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers type manner, the dance floor resembled more of a brood, a clutch, a gaggle, or a flock of individuals moving at the same tempo, in the same rhythm, using the same motions, to the same music, dancing that potentially awkward and always interesting family dance.

Large gatherings, such as this one happened to be, are not uncommon in my family.  With six siblings at the core plus twenty-one immediate cousins, all family gatherings end up on the large to very large size. Birthdays, graduations, holidays, weddings just turn into big, giant family celebrations. Luckily, in my family, each relative not only seems to know every other relative well enough to dance, but all family members seem to understand each other and have an over-arching acceptance of and pride in all kinds of similarities and differences among the group.

And with family dancing, it is the differences that can and do shine brightly.

At that particular moment, several folks in the teenage set were not only dancing, but singing madly along with the band leader, unabashed and unafraid of displaying their singing (or non-singing) aptitude.

One family member, who could normally be described as quiet and pensive, in a very brave move, having been coaxed to the dance floor by the young but married cousins, displayed some serious dance motion which added a new piece of delight throughout all.

An uncle was arm in arm with a tiny niece, tapping his foot, simultaneously swinging her in step with the beat of the music, while my sister and I held hands over the backs of our respective spouses with whom we were dancing.

As the music reached a crescendo, with bride and groom center stage – the rest of us broadly encircling them – our pop, a less than spry 80+ year old and only remaining grandparent, decided to join the group.  With his walking more of a chore than a pleasure, his participation surprised all of us.  We stared as he edged so gently and carefully towards the middle and watched as the wall of his grandchildren and children parted to accommodate and include him.

He didn’t know it at the time, nor did we, but he was dancing his final family dance.  And it was magical.

1781868_967544111892_1441363181_n

His dance moves were quaint and soulful.  They were deliberate and slow and filled with youthful joy. As he cautiously swayed to the sounds, his family did the same, holding our breath hoping he was successful and hoping the moment wouldn’t end. For as he danced, he exuded an aura that captured a lifetime of happiness in a family dance that he had helped to generate and foster.

Without a doubt, it was a family dance for the ages.

And though usually during the height of a wedding celebration in the middle of a dance floor surrounded by generations of family, it isn’t the moment to capture a serious life lesson.  But, that’s the magic part of it.

It was obvious to me that the family dance was not for a moment about music and movement.  The band may have played and feet may have shuffled, but it was very incidental to the rhythm of the event.  We were throwing away our challenges and our barriers.  We were delighting in the common family bonds that we had cultivated for many years, and we were family dancing.

I don’t necessarily like the following adage.  It seems tired and overused, but it also seems to be true that life isn’t a short sprint, but rather a long, long journey with moments of challenge, of concern, of worry along with moments of joy, hope, and celebration.

I journey with many family members with whom I sometimes disagree, often disappoint, and always seem to need more than I have the ability to help.  But with enough time and with lots of concerted effort, I am hoping that my journey can include that one last magical moment, that perfect storm, that extraordinary symbiosis, the family dance.

I just have to plan ahead and work hard.  I say bring it on!

 

The Changing of the Guard

“Mom, you go first,” she said with confidence.

So I did, and as I looked back at her, I knew times were a-changin’.

The weather was beautiful and the snow was perfect. The slopes were glistening and we were skiing together as we had for the past 25+ years. This year’s ski-adventure started out like all those that preceded it. We arrived at the lift-line a few minutes prior to opening. We secured boots, strapped on helmets, slid on gloves, and clicked into our skis. Moments later, we hopped on the first lift and headed up the slopes. Throughout the initial ride, we chatted briefly about our ski-history . . . the times we had been together on this particular lift . . . the weeks we spent as a family skiing . . . all of the traditions of the past. We smiled because here we were doing it again – skiing for a week, and it was only day one.

Over those past 25+ years, I have learned that she prefers skiing in wide open spaces, in light fresh powder, the faster – the better. Steep downhills don’t phase her, nor does skiing over ice in cold, cold weather. In fact, she is an excellent skier – with the skill and ability to maneuver most any terrain.

At the top of the slopes, we plotted out our first runs – something a little easy to start the day. And for the first hour or so, we traveled back through some of our favorite ski-haunts – pushing powder here and there – gliding and sliding – laughing and chatting.

Finally, we decided to move on to bigger and better runs – something a little more challenging. With the snow conditions perfect and the sun shining, we opted to head to up to the top – to the summit – to see the sights and ski with gusto. A smooth six-person lift took us up. Once off the lift, we stood in awe of what we could see. We were slightly above the treeline – and the Rockies stretched out in front of us for miles and miles and miles.

And there we were paused – looking, watching, thinking – with the feeling that we were standing on top of the world. What we could see was so spectacular that skiing itself took a backseat to the scenery surrounding us. During that moment, time just seemed to stand still with the only sound heard best described by Robert Frost as “easy wind and downy flake.”

“Mom, you go first,” she said with confidence.

So I did.

The slope in front of us was actually a little dicey. Most of the snow at the top had blown off so we were starting out on ice. The second section had been well-skied by others, creating a few navigable moguls. Oddly enough, 500 feet from us, the ski patrol was assisting a young man who looked like he had an unfortunate meeting with a nearby tree. The final section would take us through glades and glades of evergreens until the run flattened out near the bottom.

Skiing is an interesting sport. Any great resort will have terrain for everyone – accommodating both beginners and experts and everyone in between. Most runs have an easy way to the bottom and a challenging, more exciting way as well. Skiers judge their own ability and choose their own paths.

Throughout our ski history, we have always skied following a simple rule – an unwritten and an unspoken one – but a simple one. The strongest skier goes last. If those in front of the last skier encounter challenges beyond their abilities, that strongest skier is a tremendous asset – having the skills to not only self-navigate, but to help navigate others when necessary.

In past years, more often than not, I was the last skier. There were many times when I hauled my children out of ski-misadventures – following them down slopes that were well above their abilities, chasing them down paths through snow-covered trees, fetching runaway skis, and pulling them out of piles of snow after a fall. The last skier.

But with those four simple words, I knew that the times were a-changin’.

I glanced back and saw her standing, confident and proud. She was perched just a few feet away from me and used her ski pole to casually point towards a solid direction that we should take. I nodded equally as casually and pushed myself slightly over the icy start.

The only sound I heard at that point was the swish of my own skis. I knew that she was waiting above me – as I had done for her so many times before – patiently and appropriately, making sure that I wasn’t going to encounter any problem or challenge. It was her turn now and my turn to let her have a turn.

Out of the ice, I hit the short section of moguls, and headed for the trees. I stopped for a brief second and heard snow spraying off of her skies when she stopped immediately behind me. Though nothing outwardly had changed – we typically stopped throughout any ski run, just for fun, laughing, resting, smiling – inwardly much had changed.

Everything in life has its own season, and though my initial response was to delight in seeing her move into a different one, it was also about delighting in my movement as well. I now had another person in my life who was following and watching over me, someone to follow me through my misadventures and fetch my runaway skis. It was the changing of the guard in a part of my life, and all I could think about was all the crazy-fun that would lie ahead for me and for her.

We finished the run with little to no fanfare – which is great when skiing – and hopped right back on the same lift to experience it – one more time, again.

The You Go First Moment

The You Go First Moment

(P.S. – I have been absent from my blog for awhile, but am glad to be back!)

Bring On The Goofy

I am quite sure that under the term ‘nice guy’ in the dictionary, you would likely find a photo of my cousin, Michael.

It is easy to describe Michael – because it is all good.  As a young man, he went to a great college, joined a great fraternity, graduated with a solid degree, and secured a great job right out of the chute.  He is typical tall, dark, and handsome – with a penchant for smiling.  Today, he is a wonderful family man with equally wonderful family members.  He is calm and responsible with that caring demeanor the rest of the world envies.  He has a stellar career, is involved heavily in his community, and happens to be a rather good athlete.

He lives a thousand miles away from me.  And over the past 40+ years, I have been fortunate to have spent a week-long summer vacation each year with Michael.  Sometimes the vacation is longer; occasionally it is shorter.  With all that time together, I thought I knew him as well as anyone might.

But I was wrong.

Turns out . . . he is willingly . . . goofy.  Yes . . . goofy.

As an adult, it’s tough to be openly and enthusiastically . . . goofy.  Children can be goofy and all is well. Goofy dancing in the grocery store at age three – great! Goofy attire in junior high – great! Singing goofy songs loudly at high school football games – great! For youngsters, it is all great to be goofy.  In fact, we often encourage the goofiness in our youth as a way of increasing those crazy-funny moments in our lives that lead us to laughter, hilarity, and merriment. I readily admit that my day is brighter when I run across the goofy-side of the world. Goofy is fun.  But goofy isn’t all that common once we exit our childhood and enter that mysterious adulthood.

I am not quite sure what my definition of goofy has been, but rarely if ever, would I have associated that term with my cousin, Michael . . .  until recently.

Michael is a charitable guy.  He works hard at service to others.  And he isn’t one to want the recognition that comes along with his actions.  In fact, he usually likes to be in the background – doing his thing to help in any way possible. It turns out that Michael is the chair of a fund-raising event in his home town.   It is a great cause and a good, solid charity.  It is in need of funds.  It always is in need of funds as there are more folks who need assistance than current funds available.  So, from my vantage point, it looks like Michael has been asked to lead the efforts in his community to reach a fundraising goal.

And, lo and behold, captured via camera, the world was introduced to his goofy side.  With photos forever etching the moment, Michael is seen standing dressed up in a full-fledged, head to toe Superman costume -including cape – standing in that well-known  Superman-pose that had me do a double take when I saw it.

I laughed . . . and chuckled . . . and smiled.   Michael – in a Superman costume – goofy as can be – putting himself out there for a cause.

Working on causes . . . charitable ones . . . philanthropy . . . isn’t easy for many reasons.

First, the opportunities are endless.  There are hundreds to thousands of great causes – and each one of them deserves assistance. Narrowing the scope and finding a good fit is nearly impossible.  There are local charities, state-wide causes, national organizations, and activities that may have personal ties.  There are opportunities to volunteer time, opportunities that require specific skills and those that just seek donations.  All of them require some type of effort in achieving their goals, and all of them are worthy, but how do we, as humans, make selections?

To add to the dilemma, the older I become, the more I see a world in great need.  From children to adults, the number of people facing daily challenges seems to be growing and growing and growing.  In fact, that number seems to far outweigh the number of folks who can assist.  As a teenager, I was just sure that by the time I entered my later years, I would see a reduction or elimination of the suffering, hunger, or poverty in the world.  How could that not happen?

I recall thinking – and probably chanting at some rally during the 70s – that if I was not part of the solution, then I was part of the problem.  Thus, reaching out and helping was and is the only direction to take.  And as I have aged, I continue to pursue more opportunities to make differences.  But, it doesn’t seem to be making even the slightest dent in the world.  For all of us, it can be disheartening to try so hard to make the world a better place, knowing that the fruits of our labors may come to fruition years, decades, centuries down the road.

And that is where my thoughts of Michael enter the picture.

Sometimes to make that difference in the world – to be a part of the solution – to help those in need – we have to step outside our normal and average selves and go for it!  If that means slipping over to our goofy side and dressing like Superman, then so be it!  If utilizing that sometimes inert goofiness inside all of us positively changes the world just one iota, then we all should strive to engage in the goofy more often.   I can think of no better use of crazy-funny actions than to save the world.

The willingness of others, like Michael, to be goofy to serve the greater good is, well, motivating.  If one person helps for one moment or gives one dollar more because of one action on the part of one person doing something relatively out of character, I am grateful and forever indebted.

So, today, I say . . . bring on the goofy.

mIKE

A photo of my cousin – in his everyday attire!

I Am A Runner

I am a runner.

A very slow one at all times, but I still call myself a runner. Most days, I put in three to file miles in terms of distance. In fair weather, I run outside. In poor weather, I seek asylum and run inside. Regardless of speed, distance or location, I would describe myself as a fairly consistent year round slow and steady runner.

And until recently, running for me wasn’t a team sport.

Decked out in average, normal sporting apparel, wearing the most basic of running shoes, my routine has been to get settled with my IPOD, turn on the most eclectic music playlist, and hit the pavement – all by myself. One and only.

My running routes are those of the most basic sort. I start at my home, swing around the neighborhood in a three to file mile circle, and end up right back in my driveway, sweating and tired, a little while later. Each day, I wave at the same folks, walk up the same hills, listen to the same music, and mutter the same complaints about this sport being too hard, too difficult, too challenging for someone like me.  But each day, off I go.

Most of the thinking I do while running isn’t that earth shaking. I think a lot about how much further I have to go both in time and distance until I am done. (That’s my favorite subject.) Or about what song will follow the one I am already hearing. Or about whether I am swinging my arms too much or holding my hands too high. Odd as it my seem, those types of topics can actually fill up all of the thinking time available throughout a normal run.

But, as average and mundane as my running may seem, for me there has always been something about it that has made me repeat the process each and every day by myself for many, many years. I just like it – start to finish – day to day – month to month – year to year. It’s fun.

Recently, however, I have kinda surprised myself . . . because I have started to participate in organized running. In April of 2012, I participated in the Illinois Half Marathon in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. In October of 2012, I participated in the Rock and Roll Series Half Marathon in St. Louis, Missouri. There were approximately 20,000 participants in April and equally as many in October. I went from me running around my local neighborhood with my little headset and dorky shoes to joining with a big group of folks – all looking much more spiffy and speedy than I – and running around big cities.

And until last night, I really couldn’t figure out why I made such a drastic change. Keep in mind, I don’t think about these things when I run. My understanding on this issue happened while I was sitting in the living room watching late night television.

Last night, I once again watched the movie Miracle – the story of the 1980 U.S.A. Olympic Hockey Team. Like many other people, I remember where I was and who I was with while watching that particular game. I remember the animated announcer Al Michaels asking me if I believed in miracles, and goalie Jim Craig wrapped in the American flag scanning the crowd looking for his father. I can still see the pile of young U.S.A. hockey players on the ice man-hugging in jubilation.

Me? I remember cheering, smiling, and laughing with my family as we watched the Americans celebrate at Lake Placid – which was thousands of miles away from me. It was a great moment – a fun time.

And then it hit me. Why have I suddenly started running with others?  And what is it about running with others that makes it fun?  Well . . .

At the beginning of the half marathon, I stood toe to toe with thousands of other folks waiting to hear the starting bell. Once we did, we trotted off – up and down all kinds of interesting city streets. Lining those streets were crowds of folks cheering, waving signs, clapping, handing us water, and just in general supporting the runners. They rang bells, shouted out words of encouragement, sang songs, and turned long distance running  – which for me had been a solitary sport – into one crazy-fun time.

I laughed along the way, gave out my fair share of fist pumps and high fives, reached out for the finish line and smiled widely at the entirety of my sag-wagon – which consisted of one person – when I did cross it.

And through the whole process – from the years of running alone to becoming  one runner among many and to connecting these moments to a 1980s hockey game, I have learned much.

First, it’s fun having fun with people who are having fun.  It is.

It’s fun to be part of crazy fun moments that make people smile for no other reason than something like running together.  There is something terribly groovy about sharing the times of our lives with others whether it be cheering along with millions of  Americans while watching a winning hockey game on television miles and miles away from the action or participating in a crazy-fun organized run.

It’s also fun to have fun with only one person who is having fun.  It is.

It’s fun to do something alone.  It’s fun to be incognito and smiling for no other reason than running on my own. There is something equally groovy about experiencing the time of my life with only the fanfare of me whether it be eating alone, working alone, sitting alone or running the streets of my neighborhood alone.

Finally, I learned that alone or with others, I like watching Miracle.  It’s just fun.

Stopping For A Photo While Running Alone

                             Stopping For A Photo While Running Alone