During his farewell speech as host of the Tonight Show, Conan O’Brien urged his viewers to avoid becoming cynical. Along those same lines, it seems like people are reluctant to be inspired anymore (unless it pertains to getting rich).
Maybe they’re disillusioned by corruption in politics or cheating in sports. Even art has taken a hit as music and film seem more interested in recycling than creating. Still others see the idea of looking up to someone else as cheesy or weak.
That’s sad if not dangerous.
So let me make this very clear: I was inspired this weekend. Over and over again.
My wife and I organized about 50 friends, family members and relative strangers to participate in the Sioux Falls Marathon, Half Marathon and Miracle 5K. It wasn’t so much about wellness as raising funds and awareness for premature babies. We called ourselves Team Tiny Miracles. Got shirts made and everything.
Here are some of the inspiring parts:
- One team member, Aaron, ran a half marathon – that’s 13.1 miles – for the first time. Why? Because he was inspired by the fight that our premature twins showed and wanted to do something difficult – even though he’s plenty busy with a wife, three kids and 1.5 jobs. He then enlisted another rookie, a co-worker, to make the same new journey. They succeeded and seemingly without breaking a sweat. They deserved those finisher medals.
- My brother and his wife made the trip from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That’s a long haul for an event like this. But the truly incredible part is that they recently adopted an almost-1-year-old girl from Ethiopia. This was our first time getting to meet her, and she is incredibly sweet, content and playful. To think that they rescued someone from a country facing a famine said to rival those from the infamous 1980s commercials and a continent that’s plagued by rampant rape is absolutely incredible and heroic.
- The last man to our cookout was our team’s only entrant in the marathon – Charles. He stood out not just because he finished the marathon, his first, but because he joined Team Tiny Miracles at all. See, I’d never met him before. He follows my work and attended the school I cover, but we were basically strangers before Sunday. Yet he felt compelled to support our cause even though he’s in the process of completing more schooling – no cheap endeavor – and then stopped by our house with his gregarious 3-year-old daughter for a veggie burger and a really nice chat. (I’d never cooked one of those before. Think I nailed it.)
Beyond that, some longtime friends attended from the Twin Cities, one member of our crew ran his guts out to the tune of a second-place finish and – as always – all sorts of family members were on hand to lend support.
The whole thing was overwhelming. In fact, it was more emotional than I expected. Seeing an old NICU friend volunteering on the course threw me for a loop and I nearly curled up in the fetal position at the 57th St. underpass. But I managed to finish with a new personal best for a 5K if short of the goal I had set.
What’s more, all of this took place on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, a date that – at least temporarily – restored the idea of public servants and everyday people as heroes.
Inspiration, for the sake of helping others and/or bettering yourself, was alive and well this weekend in our corner of South Dakota. And it felt good.