Charity is something we feel the need to do. It's a good thing. Most of us have been taught to give back so we try to do what we can. When our church has a service day, we fall in line to pick up trash, visit the elderly, buy someone clothes, or paint a room. It is a project. The project lasts an hour...maybe a day...and we have completed a good deed. Service projects have quick results. When large groups come together, things that have been sitting on the back burner get done...quickly.
But I think we need to examine why service days work. Why are people willing to wake up early on a Saturday morning, go out and do the service projects? Is it because they have a deep desire to make a change in a community that isn't their own? Perhaps. However, I believe the stronger power lies in the group of people who are gathering together. People are willing to get up because their friends and family members have also said they would get up and go.
We are human. We know that any serving we do may allow us to get to know some new people, but we also know serving with a large group of people allows us to spend time with friends...friends who, our busy world, we don't get to spend enough time with. Service becomes a win-win situation. Spend time with people we enjoy while helping someone else in the process.
Anne Mahlum has gone a step further in that paradigm though. Anne Mahlum understands that gathering a group of people together has powerful results. But she has approached it a different way:
Anne's relationship with running began when she was 16 as it was her way of dealing with the unexpected situation of her dad's struggle with a gambling addiction, which tore apart her family. While Anne could never find a way to help her dad, she found her own answers in the life lessons that surround running, such as taking things one step at a time and learning the value of being on difficult roads. 10 years later, Anne's running had led her past a homeless shelter on 12th and Vine in Philadelphia where she began to develop a friendly, sarcastic rapport with some of the individuals staying there, who reminded her of her dad. During one morning run she realized that running could benefit them in the same way that it helped her and she felt in some way she could vicariously help her father by helping them.Anne found her release through running. She began to heal through running. Anne began to think that maybe that release and healing could be the same for other people as well. Anne founded Back On My Feet.
I attended the Back On My Feet breakfast yesterday and was truly inspired. I know the power of discovering a sport that you truly love. It challenges me mentally, physically, and spiritually. It strengthens my self-confidence as I progress beyond what I ever thought I could. It takes me away from stress, frustration, self-doubt...if only for an hour or two. All people should have the opportunity to know that feeling.
Back On My Feet didn't start as a program. It started long before the organization ever began. Listening to Anne speak, it was obvious that Back On My Feet was never her "service project." She simply was doing something she loved and wanted to invite other people in to join with her in something she had found liberated her.
Maybe we should all look at service differently. Instead of seeing others as our service project, why not figure out what we love to do and invite people to be a part of what we love? Service projects end. Doing something we love doesn't.