4:30pm: I left my house for a late afternoon jog around my neighborhood. Earlier in the day I had been cooped up in my house because of the rain. I patiently waited for the rain to stop and for the the sun to break through the clouds. When it did, I took off expecting to go on an hour long jog.
I rarely have an idea of where I am going or which route I’m going to run when I go running. Part of the adventure for me, is the unknown of what I’m going to see or what I might encounter. While I always have a destination in mind and know where I’m going to end up, I don’t always know the exact path I’m going to take from point A to point B. Sometimes in new areas I even challenge myself to get lost so that I can get a better work out in. I guess you could say that my running style is more Forrest Gump-like than that of a trained Marathoner.
4:45pm: I can see the sun slowly setting in the west through the ominous clouds. I’m unfamiliar with the North Carolina roads that I’m traveling but hope that I’m heading in a direction that goes back to my house. As cars zip past me, I pick up my pace so that I’m back before sunset and whatever precipitation that may be looming.
The independence, solitude and adventure I get from running is a very American concept to me. I truly enjoy setting out on my feet to unexplored areas and getting to places based on where my legs take me. As a matter of self-reliance, I don’t back down from the elements. Rain, snow, wind and cold are factors that I try to plan for but in the end I persevere through whatever nature throws at me.
5:00pm: I can feel the drops of rain as I head towards the dark matter ahead of me. In the back of my mind I think I can outlast so I speed up hoping to take a corner around the bend that will lead me to a road back home. As I check for a time hack I see that I’ve only been gone for 30 minutes and become worried of what I’ve gotten myself into. At this point I can’t explain the adrenaline that has come over me all I know is that the feeling that I get from the unknown is a rush like no other.
Running is a very simple and mindless activity. For me it’s a matter of lacing up my shoes and turning my Ipod to play before I start. Although I never enjoyed the activity growing up, it now brings me great relief from my day to day routine and gives me an outlet to clear my mind.
5:35pm: The sky opens up and releases a flurry of raindrops and wind. I run for several hundred more meters before I’m forced to stop and ponder my next move. The rain is coming down so strong that I’m immobilized as it feels like thousands of tiny pebbles piercing my skin when I’m on the move. Several vehicles pass me along the side of the road and I think how nice it’d be for someone to pick me up. Ahead in the distance I see a mini-van do a three point turn. It’s headlights get brighter as it slowly returns back to my direction. I approach the window knowing that the gentleman inside is going to offer me a ride and I suck up my pride and accept. I think to myself “I’m saved.”
As I entered the vehicle sort of sheepishly, I extended my gratitude to the driver who had the good conscience to stop and pick up a stranger. Drenched and embarrassed, I continued to say “thank you” as we headed back towards my house. Accepting the ride is very contrary to any any runner’s principles who believe that they have enough drive to make it back on their own. This circumstance was different, I had never been in such a predicament and I wondered how I got myself in that position to begin with. I then realized, sometimes certain things happen to people along their journey that one can’t predict and a small country in the Caribbean came to mind.
Five days ago Haiti was rocked by an earthquake that registered 7.0 on the richter scale. Some experts predict that the body count which is above 50,000 now could escalate to over 200,000 when all is said and done. I doubt anyone could have predicted such a natural disaster just as I couldn’t have predicted getting caught in the down pour that left me isolated on the side of an unfamiliar road. Yet, with the help of a stranger who had the decency to pull over on the side of the road, I was back home and in a warm shower in 10 minutes. Haiti needs such a driver to take a small break from their daily activities and reach out to help. It is as American to set out on your own on a path less traveled as it is American to lend a hand to people in need. The two are not mutually exclusive.
After the fifth time that I had thanked the man who picked me up, he replied “I think it’s just a natural human reaction to put yourself in someone else’s shoes in these circumstances.” What he said was not a pre-planned talking point or a response to a question that I had asked him. His reply was a heart-felt belief that he had an obligation to help out his fellow man.
I believe someone was looking over me today and because of that I am happily at home typing away in a warm and safe home and not stranded by the side of some road in rural North Carolina. As Americans we too can be that beacon of light and hope for the Haitian people as they struggle to piece together whatever it is that they had prior to the disaster. We can do this not because it’s politically or economically beneficial but because it’s the right thing to do and because we may never know when we too are caught in the rain.