When I was 20, I travelled around the US on Greyhound. I had very little money and often went days eating just a hot dog or whatever I could get for a couple of dollars. I don’t remember where I was exactly but I do remember an elderly lady who had been sitting next to me handing me a 10 dollar bill as she got off the bus and telling me to get myself something to eat. I hadn’t asked her for money but it was one of those random acts of kindness that I have thought about often over the years.
Another kindness that surfaces in my mind from time to time was from an unknown man who gave my two year old son a banana at Madrid Airport when our flight was delayed.
I don’t expect either of these kind strangers expected their kindness to be remembered years later but even just thinking about them now makes me feel grateful and want to pass on that gift to someone else.
When we plant a seed, we have no way of knowing if it will grow. The conditions may not be right and it may not germinate. It may start to grow and get pecked out of the ground by a hungry chicken. It may grow for months only to be battered by a stray football or it may catch a virus that causes it to wither and die but if we don’t plant the seed, we know that it definitely won’t grow. So carry spare bananas and scatter seeds of kindness wherever you go and some of them may blossom!
When I tell people that I go out running by myself, along the canal towpath or in the countryside, some people respond with comments like ‘you’re brave’ and ‘don’t you worry about being attacked.’ I certainly don’t consider myself to be brave and in over 10 years of running, I have never been attacked or felt threatened. I think we spend a lot of time worrying about things that are unlikely to happen. I spend much of my working life as Host Coordinator for a YMCA Supported Lodgings Project trying to persuade people to let homeless teenagers stay in their spare rooms. Some people would never consider doing this. They have bought into the myth that if you open your door to a vulnerable young person, they will steal your belongings, be aggressive to you and your family, damage your property or bring drugs into your home. Of course, all of these things are possible, but about as likely as me being attacked while I’m out running. I think it is very sad that we as a nation are so fearful that we are not willing to give a chance to someone who just needs a break in life. I believe it is no coincidence that many of the Host families I work with are from cultural backgrounds where it is more normal to open up your home to someone in your community who is in need.
It is well documented that kindness and helping others is a great way to make us feel good about ourselves. Many of the Host families that I work with tell me how proud they feel to be making a difference in a young person’s life. I am a Nightstop Host myself and I love the warm feeling that I get from simply providing bed and breakfast with love. I would like to urge anyone reading this, wherever you are in the world to consider opening up your home if you have a spare room. If you are in the Black Country area of the UK, please get in touch with me. If you are anywhere else in the world, contact your local authority to find out if there is a Supported Lodgings or Nightstop scheme in your local area. If you don’t have a spare room yourself, please talk to other people who do. Please ask them this question: Why not let a homeless person sleep in your spare room?
Number of days left until Charity Ball : 6.
Anxiety Level : 3 out of 10 after running. (About 8.5 before)
I know I have done everything I can do. I know whatever will be, will be and I know that waking up in the early hours of the morning and worrying about it won’t help. These are all the things that I would say to someone else in my position but it hasn’t stopped me from obsessing constantly and worrying about just about everything to do with the fundraising ball that I’m organising. I’ve been worrying that nobody turns up, despite over a hundred people having already paid £50 each for their tickets. I’ve worried that the compere will offend someone, people won’t like the band, they will complain about the food or they won’t like who they are sitting next to and the after dinner speakers talk for too long. These are all things I have little or no control over. The Serenity prayer comes to mind. Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can and Wisdom to know the difference.
Eating the contents of my fridge certainly didn’t help but running did. Running 6 miles for Sport Relief this morning in the pouring rain was just what I needed to help me put things into perspective. This time next week, the ball will be all over and hopefully it will have been a great success. If it does all go pear shaped, it will still be over and the sun will still rise in the East. I may have to run every day this week to keep this in mind.
My friend Audrey is 88 years old. She lived next door to me with her husband Bill when I moved into my last home. They were lovely neighbours, always taking the time to speak to Isaac, my son, giving me fruit and vegetables that Bill had grown in the garden and offering to feed the cat if we went away for the weekend. Audrey and Bill had been married for 55 years when Bill died. I couldn’t begin to imagine how lonely she must feel after all those years together so I invited Audrey around for Sunday lunch. I vaguely remember before she arrived wondering how long she would stay and what we would find to talk about but I really didn’t need to worry. Audrey was born in an era when kindness and good manners were highly valued. Although she has never travelled abroad, “terrified of water” she lived through the Second World War and I love hearing her stories about rationing, how Stourbridge looked before the ring road was built and when she used to go out dancing with Bill. Eight years on, Audrey still comes for Sunday lunch every other week and I know that I get as much out of her visits as she does.
There are some elderly people, no actually, I’ll rephrase that. There are some people who become bitter and twisted by life. They seem to resent change and are so busy moaning about what they don’t have, they can’t appreciate what they have. Others, like Audrey, embrace change and are grateful for the simplest things in life. Audrey seems to know that every day here is a bonus round. She reads the newspaper every day and cuts out articles that she knows I’ll be interested in, she walks to the local shop, goes out with friends to a craft class every week and still has the best kept garden in her street. We love having a bottle of wine and a slice of cake together, sitting in front of the fire, putting the world to right and sometimes laughing like teenagers.
When I first invited Audrey around, it was because I thought I ought to, not because I wanted to but my life has been so much richer for having her as a friend. My reason for blogging about this is that we live in a society where the elderly don’t seem to be valued. I think it’s one of the saddest things in the world when I hear stories in the news of people who have been found dead in their homes after several months, missed by nobody. If you have elderly neighbours, please don’t forget to check on them this winter. Like me, you may be pleasantly surprised.
For the first mile I was thinking this should all be over by about 9 0 clock if I just plod round, my throat feels sore, hope I’m not getting Kenny’s cold, I hate this hill, I feel so out of breath. Should I have tried to go to the toilet again before I came out? I hate January.
Second mile, my head is all over the place. Thinking about stuff that has been going on at work this week, what he said, what she said, glad I’ve deferred my OU course, Should I get extra maths tuition for Isaac, What book should we read next at book club? The last one we read, ‘The Book Thief’ was brilliant but a bit depressing. It would be nice to read something uplifting. It was good to catch up with my friend Max this week. I wonder if Pepe Mel will do a good job for Albion. I think my friend Steve should write a blog.
I’ve got into a nice steady pace now and it’s starting to get light. I think about how I’ve changed over the last few years. When I first started running, I was in a very dark place. I was a single parent in an on, off dysfunctional relationship with an alcoholic. I hardly ever think about him now. I had to disconnect completely to keep myself afloat but I spend a few minutes thinking about him now. I wonder whether he ever managed to get dry, Is he still alive and if he is, Where is he and What’s he doing now? I think about the law of attraction and how, when we are in a dysfunctional place, we seem to attract dysfunctional people into our lives. I think how running helped me through my darkest days. It really was like therapy for me. I realise I’ve done about six miles now. Wow, that went quickly, only about three to go. Maybe I should blog about this.
Mile seven, I wonder if I have it in me to run a fourth Marathon? The traffic is starting to get busy and I increase my pace a bit and start lifting my knees slightly higher to make it look like it’s easy. Strangely enough, it does feel easy.
On the last mile I start wishing that I didn’t have to run up this hill to get home. If I keep up this pace, I’ll be home in less than ten minutes. I wonder what normal people (none runners) are doing now. Then as I run the last few yards, I feel great. Smug. Glad that’s done.
Today is the eve of my 47th birthday and it’s that time of year when I like to reflect and make plans. It was this time last year that I decided to attempt another Marathon and after staggering over the finishing line of the Coniston Lakeland Trail Marathon, on the hottest day of the year, back in July, I swore I would never put myself through that again. And yet, here I am, thinking I might have another Marathon in me yet.
I feel like I’ve got unfinished business with ‘the Marathon’. I completed my first one 10 years ago, I hadn’t trained enough and ended up walking almost half of it. I then ran London in 2011 and finished in 4 hours, 25 minutes, which was okay…. but, I’d completed Birmingham Half a few months before in 1 hour, 51 minutes. The day that I ran Birmingham, I felt the fittest I’d ever been in my life. I’d been eating healthily, going to the gym and running every day for several months. By the time I ran London, my training had started to taper off. I’m convinced if it hadn’t, I could have got under 4 hours.
I knew that Coniston was never going to be a pb but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the terrain and the heat on the day. The extra weight I’m carrying definitely didn’t help either. Since then, I’ve had a hip injury which has prevented me from doing much running over the last 6 months but following a steroid injection, it now feels almost as good as new and I’m back up to comfortably running about 6 miles. I’ve got Wheaton Aston 10K tomorrow which I hope I can finish in under an hour.
I’ve been reading a lot of inspiring running blogs and an old feeling has started to stir inside me. It’s a feeling of wanting to be as fit and healthy as I can be and I wonder if it’s possible for me to be fitter now, at age 47(tomorrow) than I was almost 4 years ago. I lead a fairly busy life, working full time+, being a mother and studying but I am a firm believer that we make time for the things that we give priority to. I know I don’t want to enter another Marathon if I am not fully prepared and feeling my absolute best, so the question to myself now is: How important is this to me?
When Andre Marriner awarded Chelsea a penalty in the dying moments of the West Brom game at Stamford Bridge, he made a decision that not only robbed the Baggies of 3 points that day but has also now cost Steve Clarke his job a week before Christmas. Several players were booked following the penalty decision, which the Referee’s Chief famously apologised for. One of them was Jonas Olsson who was subsequently suspended for the game against Norwich.
I am not suggesting that Villa supporting Marriner had this all planned in the moment that he pointed to the spot but it has made me think about how the snowball affect of one seemingly small decision can go on to have untold effects. Breaking Bad fans will remember well the catastrophic result of Walt’s decision not to save Jane.
Most of us don’t have the power to make such life changing decisions but all the choices we make, things that we say and do can have an affect on our own lives and on the lives of other people. One small act of kindness or even just a smile can make someone’s day. That someone can then go on to make the days of other people who will then do the same and before we know it, everyone is feeling the benefit of that one smile. Likewise, thoughtless words and criticism make people feel bad at best.
I’m reminded of a quote from Mahatma Gandhi that one of my work colleagues shared with me:
“Be careful of your thoughts, they become your words.
Be careful of your words, they will become your actions.
Be careful of your actions, they will become your habits.
Be careful of your habits, they shall become your values.
Be careful of your values, they become your destiny.”
My blogging life didn’t get off to a very good start when I accidentally managed to link my first blog to my son’s Twitter account. His nerdy, gaming mates must have been well impressed. I then ended up reblogging the same nonsense. Undeterred, I am going to blog about running.
I’m often asked about my motivation for running. I started running seriously over 10 years ago when I decided to do a marathon to raise money for a friend whose husband died of cancer. After that, it just became a habit really. I’d met a couple of running partners while I was training and my long Sunday morning runs had become like therapy sessions which I didn’t want to give up.
I wasn’t a very happy person when I first started running and I found that the solitary miles helped me reflect on my issues and put things into perspective. Not to mention the seratonin rush I got after a long run and the feeling of superiority when I completed a run before most people had even got out of bed. Ten years on, I’m one of the happiest people I know and running has played a big part in getting me to this place. Running has connected me to others and made me feel that I belong to something. On days when I could have just stayed in the house and felt sorry for myself, I have achieved something. Even if I’ve only run 3 miles, it’s better than not running 3 miles and a cheery good morning from another runner or dog walker and moan about the British Weather does wonders for lifting the spirit. I have met some wonderful people through running. For some reason, most runners seem to be nice people, So that’s why I keep running and why I hope to keep running for the rest of my life and hopefully, if I run long enough, one day I will win a best in category….and that will make me happier still.
Just let me run and no-one gets hurt
I will be blogging about my obsession for running at 5.30 am to achieve a smug self righteous feeling, the joys of living with a fourteen year old Aspergic teenager, organising my first ever fundraising ball and how supporting West Bromwich Albion has ruined my life.