Monday, March 08, 2010

The 3-Day: Lessons For Living ...

It's not that Robert Fulghum's pint-sized wisdom wasn't sage. We really did learn all we need to know in kindergarten.

But if I look behind me, kindergarten is a speck on the horizon. I can hardly remember what I learned 10 minutes ago, never mind what I learned when I was 4.

And so, my brain, working as it does – when it decides to work at all – started thinking that there are plenty of life lessons to be found within the 3-Day. And I thought I'd better write them down.

The 3-Day is a microcosm in many ways. The three days, the route, the camp, the people, everything and everyone about the event is life on a smaller scale: The three days are a lifetime, the route is your journey, the camp is a community, the walkers and crew and volunteers are your neighbors and friends.

Here are a few lessons that popped into my mind. You will surely think of more. They apply to the 3-Day, but they also apply when the 3-Day is done. They apply to every day, if we remember apply them.

☯ Lesson 1: Be kind to strangers – The beauty of the 3-Day is that you quickly realize that no one is a stranger. Sure, you may not know them yet, but you have something in common with every donor, every walker, every crew member, every volunteer, every police officer who helps you cross an intersection, every driver who offers a honk of encouragement as they drive by, every store owner who displays a sign of support, every resident of every community who decorates the front of their home or sets out their sprinkler, every bouncy little boy and girl who can't wait to high-five you as part of an awe-inspiring pink parade.

It's an emotional journey and the surprises are endless. You might walk by someone, offer a casual "How's it goin'?", strike up a conversation, and end up with a new life-long new friend. Or you might find yourself standing next to someone in tears. Go ahead and hug them. Trust me, they won't mind.

But it's not just for those three days. We are all far more alike than we are different. I have a T-shirt that says, "Humankind. Be both." Indeed.

☯ Lesson 2: Be kind to yourself – You are doing something amazing here, something beautiful and bold and brash. There is nothing meek about walking 60 miles, my friend. And that's only part of the journey. Think of all the training, all the fundraising, all the planning and packing. You're not just a walker, you're an ambassador, you're a teacher, you're an activist. You're not willing to accept a world with breast cancer. You're literally changing lives. Including your own.

So, on the 3-Day and every day, be kind to yourself. Take care of the body that carries you through every day. Rest when you need to rest. Give yourself water. Give yourself fuel. Nurture your body. Nurture your soul, whatever that looks like for you.

☯ Lesson 3: Enjoy snacks – Speaking of fuel ... . The 3-Day is affectionately known as the 60-Mile Buffet. You will eat. All. Day. Long. Not non-stop, no, but regularly. Do not deprive yourself. You are asking a lot of your body. Give it fuel. Lunch and dinner are provided, of course, but along the route, at pit stops, you will find an array of treats. Off the top of my head, I remember: bagels, peanut butter, bananas, oranges, pretzels, potato chips, peanuts, animal crackers, baby carrots, string cheese, raisins, chewy granola bars, and the perennial favorite, Smuckers Uncrustables. I might be misremembering the raisins. But you get the idea.

Now, snacking in the real world should probably not be so constant, but that doesn't mean we don't deserve a treat every now and again, either. Celebrate the first warm day with an ice-cream cone. Or buy little bites of dark chocolate for those moments when you need something sweet.

☯ Lesson 4: Find reasons to celebrate – One of my favorite parts of the 3-Day happens somewhere around 7 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday nights. That's when the route closes. (In Chicago, anyway; that time may vary depending on cities and dates.) Of course, somebody has to be the last person on the route, right? That parade of pink has a beginning, a very long middle, and an end. A 3-Day staffer, on a bike, rides behind the last walker, making sure they get to camp.

But here's the really cool part: The last walker (or walkers) to arrive in camp get to raise the camp flag, which is the signal that every walker has made it home for the night. But even before then, even when the last walker is simply nearing camp, people start clapping: staff along the route, walkers setting up their tents, diners in the dining tent, hundreds and hundreds of people start clapping. Whomever's making announcements interrupts themselves to announce that the last walker is making his or her way into camp. More people start clapping. Whomever is running the sound for the evening cues up U2's "Beautiful Day" and more people start clapping. And then they start to gather around the flag pole, into a huge circle, still clapping, keeping time to the music, and the walker raises the flag and the crowd goes crazy.

It's awesome. I cry every time. I'm crying right now.

Just think of how much better life would be if we all took a few moments out of every day to cheer for someone. It needn't be such a big production. A pat on the back or a well-timed "Woo hoo!" will do.

☯ Lesson 5: Ask for help – You'll be walking ... and walking ... and walking. And no one can do that for you. But a small army of others will help you make your way. And if you need help, just ask. If you're on the route and you don't feel well, a sweep van will be by to give you a lift to the next pit stop. If something more serious happens, ambulances drive the route, too, and one is never far away. The medical personnel in the pit stops and in camp are amazing.

Somewhere along the line, in life in general, I got it in my head that I should be able to handle anything that came my way. It's not easy for me to ask for help. But I'm getting better at it. Because I finally got it through my thick skull that people – gasp! – want to help. It's what we do. Don't you feel good when someone asks you to help them and you're able to lend a hand? I know I do. So why I used to be loathe to ask that of others is beyond me. It's a win-win, really. And it makes the world go 'round.


Anonymous Marie said...

What a fantastic way to look at things. I found this post really inspiring today. Good luck on your journey!

2:09 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Thanks, Marie! Your comment was a nice way to start the day!

8:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try some Cliff bars for energy, I use them on the 14er's. Cuz Dan

2:45 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Funny, Dan. I love Clif bars! And I used to stock up on 'em and take them on the walk with me. I'll get a stash again this year. They're way yummy.

4:09 PM  
Blogger Martha Kelly said...

i'm with marie -- beautifully written and observed essay today. thanks, beth!

5:11 PM  
Blogger Kristen Sager Cincotta said...

Beautiful post! Very well said!

5:11 PM  
Blogger Mandy said...

sniff. sniff. I heart the 3 day. sniff.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Jenn from WA said...

I found myself re-living the last walker - and crying. Thanks for that. It's such a special moment. thousands of people who've just walked 20+ miles get on their feet to clap in a walker. Truly one of the most amazing moments.

10:07 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

This is my first 3 day journey (San Diego, Nov. 19-21,2010) and I am so honored to be a part of this 'family'. Thank you for this post... it is encouraging and motivating. Peace and <3!

11:46 PM  

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