- by Dianne Drake
This past weekend was gloomy, wet, windy, unseasonably cold – and let me tell you, I don’t do cold very well. Tornadoes were predicted but, thankfully, they didn’t blow through Indianapolis. All in all though, it was a nasty day weather-wise, yet that didn’t stop nearly 80,000 people from gathering together downtown to walk or run the Susan omen 5k. Even with my aversion to the weather, that’s where I was.
I’ve been meaning to join in this event for a while – in memory of my mother who lost her battle to breast cancer. Normally, I think about it after it’s over and I see the news report. But this year, I registered early, even got my small team together – family and friends. And so we walked.
5k isn’t really so long – just a little over 3 miles. And even with 80,000 people surrounding you, it didn’t take much of a chunk out of the day. But the thing is, I saw such amazing spirit there. Everywhere I looked, people were celebrating a life, or honoring a memory. I saw elderly people on walkers struggling to make the entire distance, people in wheelchairs, as well as people pushing strollers. Then, there was the parade of survivors… people who won the battle and came out to tell us it can be done.
So what did this all mean to me? In terms of my take-away, what I discovered was a unity in purpose and an amazing outpouring of support and love. Sure, a lot of it was the moment. People were excited to be there and there’s something about a cause which 80,000 people have come out to support that gets the adrenalin flowing. I understand that. But what I also understand is that future cancer survivors will come from that group, and not just because of the money raised. It’s the community of support, the knowledge that you’re not alone in the fight – that will save lives as surely as medical intervention will. As a nurse, I know cancer. As the daughter of two parents who both lost their battles to cancer, I know cancer. As someone who walked the 5k walk, I know it from an even different perspective now and I’m glad I became part of that support network. It’s a little thing, but the little things in life add up.
The thing is, you don’t have to do a 5k walk. You can donate a blanket to a homeless shelter, take your pet to a nursing home or mentor a child. At Christmas, I never pass a red kettle without dropping in all my spare change. The little things add up, and while I don’t know for sure, I suspect that the little things probably make the biggest differences in individual lives. Whatever the case, my team came away already from the 5k planning for next year, and talking about ways they can earn more money for the cause. Two of them are actually going to work on a corporate sponsorship for the event.
Digressing a little bit here, the theme of all the books I write is centered on people helping people. And the one thing I always try to convey is how people can find their own balance when they go outside themselves to help someone else. While the elements surrounding my stories are always different, people helping people is always the underlying moral to my story. Over the years, I’ve been amazed by the emails I’ve received where readers relate something that’s happened to them that’s similar to what I’ve written, or how something in my book has helped them make a decision or do something that’s helped. Years ago, I wrote a magazine article about a young boy who’d overcome devastating injuries and disabilities to do something great in this world. Two years later I received a letter that had been forwarded numerous times to get to me (it was a miracle it ever did). It came from a family in Africa who’d read my article. Their son had been in much the same situation as the boy I’d written about, and they were struggling with quality of life issues. Reading about Randy gave them new hope and a new perspective on what their son might be able to accomplish in his lifetime. Decisions for him were made based on my words. How they ever found this article I’ll never know because it was in a small circulation magazine that never went overseas. But that issue did find them, and while to me, it was a little thing, to this struggling family it was the thing that changed their lives. To that family, those 2000 words I wrote were the same as 80,000 people lined up and ready to take on a 5k race. What I learned all those years ago, and what I still know now is that no matter how big or small the involvement, it’s a good thing. So take a few minutes this week, donate some old clothes to the Salvation Army, buy a bag of dog food for the animal shelter, volunteer for an adult literacy program, do a 5k walk for the cause of your heart. It’s all good.