Individual Acts Of Courage

Baseball and Running.  Running and Baseball.  For those that know me well, these two things are major aspects of my life.  Important and interchangeable.  They color my world in many different, yet positive ways.  They create spaces of childlike joy, relaxation, contemplation and spiritual introspection.  As I write this, on the morning of Patriot’s Day and the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, I find that in the past week there has been an interesting convergence of the two.  Permit me to explain.

Earlier this past week, Jackie Robinson Day was celebrated across all of Major League Baseball.  For those of you who may not follow baseball very closely, or perhaps do not consider yourself a fan, it is a day when Jackie’s life is honored and celebrated:  not only as the first African-American to break the color line in baseball, but of more importance to me, of how he dedicated his post-baseball life to advocating for the equal rights of Black people, at a time in our country’s history when the civil rights movement was, arguably, in its infant stages.   But that didn’t matter to Jackie.  He used his celebrity to convey a message of equality for all wherever and whenever he could.  In short, he put himself out there to create a better world.

Not so suddenly, his accomplishments on the baseball diamond were moved to the background in the pursuit of what he firmly believed was a much more noble and important goal.  The quote attributed to him that will always resonate with me is the following:

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

What I admire so much about this quote is that Jackie felt he had a higher calling.  I believe he knew his place in history.  He didn’t just embrace it, he ran with it – and in so doing he changed his world – and the world we live in today.  An individual act of courage – repeated over and over again – that transformed him into a catalyst for the change that was so desperately needed in our country and in our society.

Speaking of running, there’s this little race in Boston that happens on the third Monday of April for the past 117 years that many people have anticipated with great fervor since last year’s tragedy.  It was difficult, neigh impossible, to avoid the stories of courage that permeated the media leading up to the race this entire week – and rightfully so, as far as I am concerned.  Services highlighted individual acts of courage and inspiration amongst the victims, first responders, runners and spectators alike.  We know the stories, we remember their faces.  They have filled our collective consciousness in the year that has passed.  One more touching and moving than the other.  “Boston Strong” personified over and over again before our very eyes.   Multiple acts of courage and humanity repeated over and over again that I hope have become a catalyst for change in our society.

To my way of thinking, there is much we can learn about our humanness from the inspiring stories that emanate from Boston and from the man who proudly wore number 42 and batted second for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  The parallels to me are very apparent. The victims and their families, didn’t complain.  Neither did Jackie.  It would have been exceedingly easy for both to embrace the victim mentality and say for all to hear:   “woe is me” – and most of us wouldn’t have batted an eye.  But the fact is they did not, they picked themselves up and got on with their lives.  They endured.  They did the hard work when no one was watching.  They grew stronger.  They thumbed their noses at the challenge put before them and persevered – no, make that – triumphed.

As I finish this piece, watching the coverage of today’s Boston Marathon in the background on television the feelings of joy, triumph, perseverance and healing that are projected from Boylston Street and along the entire route are palpable.  It’s time to move on: we’ll never forget, but it’s important for our spirit and for our soul that we turn the page, take a deep cleansing breath and perhaps, just perhaps, approach those we encounter in our lives – however different they may seem than ourselves  – with dignity and respect.