I spent much of my teens and twenties trying to change the world. The world seemed to be a hopeful place and we truly believed we could make everything better. Part of that was the innocence of youth and part of it was what was happening around us. Civil rights, the feminist movement, gay rights, ending the Vietnam war, all of it was filled with great energy and excitement, and then the assassinations began and over and over again, hope turned to despair.
Today I am older and wiser, still filled with a need to make things better. I have learned that the only way to change the world is to change my world, slowly but surely, like the drip of water on stone. I have also learned that the most important part of change are dignity, respect, and just showing up. Being there cannot be underestimated. Without dignity and respect, little can be accomplished. With it, all things are possible.
A few months ago I began running with a group called A Mile In My Shoes. A group of volunteers meet at a homeless shelter and run with homeless men. My experiences with the men who run with us have changed my life. Beginning each run with warmups and hugs is invaluable, and we end each workout the same way. The first few runs, I hugged a few men and then was anxious to leave. Now, I need a hug from everyone before I can leave to begin my day. Knowing that I am valued for just showing up and running becomes the centerpiece of my day.
On a particularly cold morning, I found I had lost one of my mittens. I didn't say anything as I am perfectly capable of pulling my hand inside my running jacket and was embarrassed by my carelessness. One of my homeless friends noticed I was missing my mitten and immediately began searching for it. When I explained, that I would be fine without it, he kept looking and told me HE knew what it was to be cold, and he would find my mitten. He did find it and I wore it that day with the humility of someone who doesn't know what I don't know.