From Kenya to the Finish Line
Yesterday, I ran a Half-Marathon. I have never run anything in my life. I haven't even done a 5K. I ran the race to raise money for the International Programs of BuildaBridge. In the process of training, I inspired two other runners to run the race for BuildaBridge as well. I began my training in January and it has been a long journey. At 31, I am in the best shape of my life, I lost 35lbs., and the feeling of reaching a goal is the best part.But, the bigger story is BuildaBridge. I wanted to be a runner for years, but I never got off the couch. Then, in November, I went to Kenya as a volunteer with BuildaBridge. I met children who have left an imprint on my life. All of them had experienced trauma in the rawest forms. They are surrounded by extreme poverty, crime, death, disease, and hopelessness. However, like most children, they are resilient! They show up for class with smiles on their faces. They do their work with diligence and determination. They do not give up. Through art, they are able to express their inner most thoughts and feelings, describe their history, and articulate the hope they have for their future. Often, without words, the beauty and pain of their lives are told through their art forms. In my life, I have never seen anything as graceful and beautiful as the art that came from the children of Mathare Valley.I went home from Kenya and did a lot of self-reflection. I realized that I often say I am going to do something, but I don't do it. I say, "I'm going on a diet," or "I'm going to start exercising more," or "I'm going to run a race." However, I always let other things get in my way. So, I took a picture of one of the girls in my Kenyan class and I framed it and hung it on my wall. She is a 10-year old girl who lost both of her parents. She often goes to bed without food. She came to my drama class and stood in the corner the first day. On the second day, she smiled and came alive. By the end of the week, she was telling her story in front of a crowd of people. At 10, she was more determined and committed than I was at 31. In addition, she had experienced more trauma than I may ever experience in my life. As I worked my way up from walking to jogging, I thought of her. As I went from 1 mile to 3, I thought of her. When I ran my first 8 miles without walking, I thought of her on that stage yelling out her pain and smiling about her future.People have been texting me, calling me, emailing me, and Facebooking me with congratulations. But the truth is that this race isn't about me. Without that girl and the 19 other students in my class in Kenya, I would have never crossed that finish line yesterday. I went to Kenya thinking Iwas going to teach them, but instead, they changed my perspective on life. They face trials everyday that are way beyond running 13.1 miles. They deserve hope and they deserve a voice. So, I challenge you to take a moment and set a goal to help yourself and give back to the greater GOOD!