Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sometimes being selfish can be good.

Training for the Boston Marathon if you live in New England is an exercise in dodging the weather (and sometimes cars). What makes it even more challlenging is getting in that weekly long run (usually several hours or more) that is so critical to marathon training. Most of us find it difficult to set aside several hours in the middle of the week so we save our long runs for Saturday or Sunday mornings. As luck would have it, in my neighborhood it has snowed almost every weekend this winter providing us with sidewalks buried under 2 feet of snow, roads covered with ice, and streets narrowed to where you often have to climb snow banks to avoid oncoming cars. The good news…temperatures actually reached 30 one weekend.

Yeah..I know…you want to know, “What’s this got to do with being selfish?”

Bear with me a bit.

I’m not sure any of us like the idea of being called selfish. It’s not the kind of comment you respond to with a “thank you”. I heard one person respond “I’m not selfish, simply self focused”. Whatever...if it helps you sleep nights……

Truth is, to be able to get out in this kind of winter weather to do anything for a couple of hours requires a certain amount of discipline, and ….well…self focus (not to mention a somewhat questionable mental state).

In the current economic times it’s easy to become self focused, worrying about the effect the economy will have on you (my way of dealing with it is not opening our monthly 401K or IRA reports with the unrealistic hope that if I don’t look its not real). While it is hard to turn on the TV or radio without hearing about foreclosures and job losses, it doesn’t seem as real as when it hits close to home with a family member or friend.

For me, I had one of those “reality” moments the other night. Last winter I had the opportunity to go out on the Lazarus House soup truck to bring sandwiches and hot soup to homeless and hungry neighbors who can’t make it to one of the city shelters for a hot meal. Between the snow, cold and icy roads it can be almost impossible for some of them, often with holes in their shoes, to make the trek. For many of them they have to make the decision to chance going out and getting sick (when they have no money for healthcare) or going hungry. They have gotten used to going hungry. So the soup truck brings food, along with socks and gloves, to people living in boarding houses and under bridges. Last winter when I was on the truck we served about 40 people who otherwise would have gone without. Last week that number was over 90. Sometimes “reality” bites.

So here’s the thing….while running the marathon could be considered a selfish act of setting and achieving a goal (and in my case honoring the memory of my son), you could argue that running it to help people makes my selfishness a good thing. What’s more, the feelings of accomplishment I get from knowing I helped others makes the training and running the marathon all worth while.

It’s not often we get to be selfish AND help others.

PS…Running is coming along slow but steady. Long run was 4 miles this week and while the hamstring is still giving me fits, I was able to keep a short stride and run slow enough to make it without re-injuring it. 11 weeks to go.

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