I had a conversation with an NBA player from New Orleans the other day. Actually, I chatted with a few of them outside of the Ritz Carlton in uptown Charlotte; the entire team was seated outside at cafe tables when I passed during my walking break of my run that morning. As I waited for my running partners to catch up, I experienced one of the most profound interactions of blind, bridged human connection that I have ever experienced, and it is simply proof that, well, RunningWorks.
For a moment, I shared a space and a connection with both some of the richest people, most well acknowledged and worshipped people in the world, alongside the exact opposite,that is, the poorest, most over-looked, forgotten, and looked down upon, the homeless. You see, my running partners that morning were Jackie and Florence, both homeless women that were participating in the RunningWorks running program run through the Urban Ministries Center. RunningWorks, co-founded by my good friends Kelly Fillnow and Meredith Dolhare is a non-profit running program founded to encourage the homeless community to rediscover the power of teamwork, discipline, confidence and respect for each other one stride at a time. The idea that running does work to change and inspire value in life is a concept that I believe in whole-heartedly, and getting to experience mutually shared respect exchanged between multi-millionaire athletes and flat broke homeless was simply beautiful.
As the New Orleans Hornets exchanged small talk with me, they were in turn embracing Jackie and Florence who were by my side in an empowering, life-changing way that only running can provide. Respect was exchanged. Honor was given. For that moment, my girls, and the entire group of about ten, had purpose and a destination, not something often seen or expected of the homeless. During that run, the group participating in the RunningWorks run learned to defy expectations and to redefine their direction. Clad in donated Brooks shoes and UnderArmor clothes, our homeless runners were no longer homeless, they were simply runners journeying through life and through the streets of Charlotte, and they were acknowledged and applauded by NBA players as they jogged by.
I am and will be forever honored to have helped bridge the reality of human value and respect between the richest of the rich and the poorest of poor, if even for just that millisecond of a moment that we all shared. Every life has great purpose and value, every life. It is our duty to enlighten and empower those whom society has turned its back on and to show them how beautifully and purposefully crafted they are, and for me, RunningWorks, it really does.