On Saying “I Love You” to Strangers

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You’ve seen the “I love you” hand sign, right? In my family we use it every day. Today was different, though. Today I said “I love you” to a stranger. I didn’t mean to, exactly, but it happened nonetheless. I was out running in the afternoon after work, trying to get my 3 miles in. I had recently talked to Kirsten and knew she was on her way home and likely would pass me on the road I was running on; so I was watching for her. Almost midway through my run, I saw what I thought was her car approaching me from the opposite direction; so I put up the “I love you” hand sign and began waving at her. Given our relative speeds and the fact that we were moving in opposite directions, it was only as the car passed me that I could see that I wasn’t saying “I love you” to Kirsten, but rather was doing so to some strange guy instead. She later did pass me, and I did it again, but the fact is that from the time my hand shot up and I made that sign until the time I saw that it was somebody else I was making it to, all the loving thoughts and good vibes that I could muster were flowing out of me and toward that stranger. Of course, I was a stranger to him too; so I don’t even think he realized what was happening, but despite all that love was flowing. I said “I love you” to a stranger… and I plan to do it again in the morning.

Tomorrow morning at 6am about a dozen or so near strangers will gather to hug, run, and hug again. And as we greet one another, stretch, hear a question of the day to focus our conversation as we run, and then partner up and run before ending with more stretching and time to reflect on the conversations had around that question of the day; as we do all this in one way or another we are of course telling one another, “I love you.” That’s the beauty of Mile In My Shoes, and I wanted to give a quick update on my fundracing effort for them.

Thanks to some of you, I’ve raised $260 so far for Mile In My Shoes (MiMS), just $50 short of my goal. That’s amazing! Thank you to those who have contributed! Your giving helps put running shoes onto the feet of those experiencing homelessness and helps pay for race entries for them, and those shoes and opportunities to race help unlock hidden potential. There are lots of reasons why people wind up living in a shelter, but I suspect that at least some of them have to do with hope (or lack thereof) and the power of agency (or lack thereof). It’s hope that can keep one moving, keep one working toward a better future. And it’s agency, the capacity of a person to act- and to see the impact of one’s actions- that can build a cascade of success that spills over from one area of one’s life to another. Running is something that almost anyone can do. As someone who’s struggled with weight throughout my life, I should know. I started running when I was obese and have lost more than 100 pounds doing so. So I know that almost anyone can run, and I know that it can change your life in more ways than merely losing weight.

People experiencing homelessness can run- and maybe change their lives- too. Moving out of homelessness is hard for many reasons and may take time, but running is something that can be done right now, today. It takes a little discipline, but with support and encouragement, if you keep at it, running can be powerfully transformative. Running gives agency, and running gives hope. When I’m running everyday, I’m happier and more outgoing. I sleep better and have more energy, and I have more capacity to deal with the challenges I still face every day. It’s hard, though, and as with anything, community can be instrumental in providing the support that one trying to change their life, including by taking up running, needs.

That’s just what MiMS does. MiMS builds community among unlikely partners through the transformative power of running. For those experiencing homelessness, MiMS provides the empowerment, encouragement, and support needed to establish running as a lifestyle, and that newfound running lifestyle can provide small successes, small “wins” that serve as building blocks for larger ones both in running and in life itself. For run mentors, those who aren’t currently experiencing homelessness, the community that MiMS builds provides investment and education that destigmatizes homelessness so that it’s no longer an “issue” and instead has a face, in fact a whole team full of faces, each one possessing a story and a life that is deeper and more complex than any superficial reading of the “issue” of homelessness could provide. I’m glad to be part of this team, and I hope you’ll join me in working to support them. If you haven’t pitched in yet to my fundracer as I get ready for the Torchlight 5k in a mere two weeks, it’s not too late. Please give, if you can.

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