As triathletes and endurance sport athletes there are times that we stand alone, together. There are times that I fully embrace my unique passion to go farther, faster and there are times when I simply want to fit in with the broader population, to belong to the masses. We were at church last night and I was reminded of why it can be good to stand alone sometimes. Several weeks ago an earthquake shattered the villages of northern Pakistan, people who were already poor lost everything. With winter fast approaching an urgent call went out to aid organizations for housing construction before winter set in, potentially and likely killing the thousands left homeless by the quake. The supplies to build temporary housing were quickly available in abundance, but there were not enough hands to build shelters. An email arrived at our church imploring any able body men to please come help rebuild. Bear in mind, this was not a call to help build housing in Wisconsin, this was please fly half way round the world, take a four hour bus ride up into the mountains then travel by foot or military helicopter up into the remote and impassible road region of Pakistan where there will likely be bands of traveling terrorist that would just as soon kill you as receive help from a westerner (there was a reason that women were not asked to come). This was work in frigid cold under primitive resources, sleeping in plastic tents, eating whatever you can pack in, come and help us. 50 men dropped everything and started packing. One of those men is the husband of a friend of mine, the most unlikely of relief workers. Ben is around 6 foot and maybe weighs 150 pounds, a desk jockey with bad knees. He had 2 weeks to prepare and asked me to construct a workout schedule for him to get some sort of base of aerobic conditioning to prepare him to work-hard-at 8000 feet. He is the father of six kids, one with a wedding pending in June, one entering kindergarten. His wife didn't want him to go at first, but they prayed and realized the need was greater than their reservations. They left on Tuesday. Sometimes it's good to stand alone.
On Wednesdays I help with an Adventure Girls Club, an eclectic band of 5th and 6th graders hailing from inner city projects and affluent suburbs. Marlene leads this club she formed thirty years ago; a place for young girls to come and learn about life and value and unconditional love. Marlene knows every one of the 75 girls by name, knows their families and knows every girl that has passed under her care. She has changed lives and some of the current small group leaders who were adventure girls themselves bear that out. Marlene also teaches preshool kids every Tuesday for a mom's group. She knows every one of those kids, and their moms. Her co teacher told me that she has personally driven kids throughout the years, at times going in to fetch them on a cold morning, going into their homes to find a coat when someone comes shivering to the van in a t shirt, at times walking over passed out mom, to bring them to preschool, to love them. She does this month after month, year after year, and she has never been paid a dime to do so. At one low point she was ready to hang up the entire project when she coincidentally met one of her former "girls". This girl had overcome a thousand obstacles in life and had Marlene to thank, and she did. So, Marlene didn't quit then, and is an inspiration and a mentor to me today, for which I am grateful, there is only one Marlene.
Sometimes it is good to stand alone.