I am a distance runner. That means I spend a lot of time in sneakers and athletic shorts, logging mile after mile, going for endurance over speed. Someday, I’ll run a marathon. I want to cross the finish line having run 26.2 miles, and have someone place a medal over my head as if I’ve won a gold medal in the Olympics. I want to know how that feels. From what my runner friends say, that “marathon moment” feels awesome!
While I am nowhere near ready to run a marathon, my friends are ready. Recently, I went to support them by volunteering to hand out medals at the finish line of a local marathon.
I thought it would be easy, but after five hours I was exhausted. They hadn’t given us food, water or a break. My arms hurt and were strained. I had put at least a thousand medals over runners’ necks at that point, and I felt as if I was going to keel over.
I didn’t stop, though. I didn’t want to. As the runners crossed the finish line, the deep emotions they were feeling were more than obvious. People of all ages, all races and all levels of ability were smiling, crying and absolutely overcome.
Even though I considered medaling boring, repetitive work, I realized that this “marathon moment,” when each of them received their reward, was a major highlight for them. People thanked me, they told me that they’d been waiting for this moment their entire lives, they took pictures with me, and they even hugged me. Wow!
For me, this was a very annoying Sunday morning. For them, it was a “marathon moment,” one of their most meaningful experiences.
The runners weren’t going to remember my face, of course, or my name, but they were going to remember how I made them feel.
Placing the medals on the runners reminded me that we can’t judge our impact on the lives of others solely from our perspective. On that Sunday, I was hungry and exhausted. All of the faces flowed together, one after another. I couldn’t remember them even if I wanted to. The runners were hungry and exhausted. But many of them would never forget how I made them feel when I congratulated them and smiled.
I’ve had people like that in my life, including a friend from elementary school who stood up for me against the bullies on the bus. She probably wouldn’t remember that, but I always will. I remember my English teacher back in high school, who encouraged me to write and made me start pursuing a career in journalism.
Everyone has the opportunity, every day, to make a difference in the lives of others, even if it is with a quiet smile, a kind word or help. What I learned on that marathon Sunday was that words and actions matter. Someone will remember what you said, whether you were kind or cruel, belittling or encouraging.
Make sure that your words and actions are positive, make sure they uplift, that they work to make you and others better. You never know what “marathon moments” you’re going to give other people.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103