Though it was 2021, I can remember this moment like it was yesterday.
My mom and I were at a park in Frankfort, MI. She was sitting on a bench. I was sprawled out on the ground nearby surrounded by cigarette butts, chewed up gum, and all sorts of other litter. I didn’t care. I’d just completed my first triathlon competition, a half-Ironman. My body was so exhausted I would’ve laid down just about anywhere.
Afterwards, when I gained control of my breath and determined I could put a sentence together, I looked up and asked her, “Mom, why do people do this to themselves?”
I wanted to hear from her, a woman who’s never raced a day in her life, what she felt, what she saw, as she moved about the crowd of human carnage at the finish line.
She paused, and stated thoughtfully, “Angie, I don’t get why people do this to themselves.”
Then, in true mom fashion, she shared with me what she did know, which is far better than any direct answer to my question.
“I’m just amazed by how good it feels to cheer for someone, and watch people cheer on other people. You should’ve seen your son, and your dad, as you rounded that last corner. They were so excited for you. Even the stranger next to me. He was excited for you, too!
I remembered the guy she was talking about. He made me smile. My mom continued.
“I’m also so happy that the Ironman chose this small Northern Michigan community to host its event. Think about the economic impact on this town. If it weren’t for the Ironman, or for you, I’d be at home sitting on the couch watching tv. But I’m here, it’s a beautiful end of summer day, and I’m sitting in a park and get to see the very best of people. I just love it.”
That’s the thing about my Mom. I see bloodied and bruised people in various stages of self-inflicted pain. She sees humanity, community, and people in their finest hours. My mom, of course, gets it. She sees the bigger picture.
We, as humans, need these moments, these events, and these experiences – as participants or supporters. We need to cheer and be cheered for, to encourage others and let ourselves be uplifted, to challenge and be challenged, and to either strive and achieve, or stretch and fall … but get back up again because we can. It’s the give and take of life that gives the journey meaning.
And these events don’t have to be athletic in nature. We can volunteer at a fundraiser, go to a car show, attend a conference, or even just head to church. All we have to do is either show up for ourselves, or show up for other people, and be present to get the memo, which is really simple … there’s awesomeness in life that abounds and we need it to fuel our spirit.
In these coming weeks, stop for a second, be intentional about seeking the shared human experience of community and – when there – be present to experience it. The inspiration you’ll gain from these moments will be there for you to draw from as you continue to lead in this wild, wild world we live in.
I’m with you.
PS Like the picture? After the race, my dad bought me an ice cream cone. It was a legit double scoop, which melted in my hands and got all over my face. My mom, dad, and I ended up sharing the cone while sitting in the park. That memory alone was worth the 70.3 miles I traveled during the race.