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Community of the Heart

12 days. 12 days and I'll be recovering from my 3rd marathon in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate in Central Berlin. This will probably be my last post until then, but I felt like I had something I needed to say.
This past weekend I hosted an event with my friend and World Vision running buddy, Al Prete, at a local venue called Exit Strategy. We worked hard to create a welcoming space with fun activities and an energetic atmosphere. But all the planning would have been a huge waste of time without people showing up - people saying "We care about you, what you're doing, and what you represent." And they did show up. We were blessed with a great turnout. And as I moved about the crowd, I was struck by the array of groups represented there, all coming together to make up my Community.
But my Community doesn't end there. It used to, and not all that long ago. When I first started running for World Vision, I came to realize that my life priorities had tightened into a very limited bubble around me and my family. My Community, though slightly larger than my family, was also limited in scope. But that started to change. I started to care deeply for the needs of these kids and these families that I was speaking up for. My heart started to expand, my priorities stretched. My focus reached farther and farther from my self. Not to say I'm a selfless saint - I just grew up a bit in awareness and empathy for the people of the underdeveloped world.

My second year training with World Vision, I started to see what huge things could be accomplished by a Community. Bit by bit, a crowd of supporters came alongside me and Sam and humbled us by pooling together over $10,000 for clean water in about 6 months. There's a lot of power in the bonds of Community, in the mutual support and care that comes with owning your relationship to the larger whole. And when a lot of people recognize that and move in that awareness, the impact can be huge.

This year I've gradually come to understand Community differently. Where I used to see charity as the act of one Community ("us": the people fortunate enough to be in a position to help) meeting the needs of another Community ("them": the needy, the underprivileged, the third world). It's easy to categorize and compartmentalize like that. It's not necessarily wrong to do, and in some contexts it helps us order things in our mind. But lately my perspective has started to evolve again, and I'm asking the question, "What's the difference, really?" Why Us and Them? Why not just Us? I see pictures and videos of fathers holding their small children and asking for someone to extend their hand in partnership. They may not look like me; their home, their lifestyle, their diet and customs may be different from my own. But I know what it feels like to be a dad. They know what it feels like to be a dad. And they want so badly to be able to give their kids more. And I can't help but see them, not as the "other" community, but as my Community. A couple years ago, Sam announced her marathon effort with the phrase: "There's no such thing as other people's children." And I think it's just taken me this long to understand that statement in full. The word Community, in its origin, evokes a bond of shared experience. And as different as our lives are, I can't deny how we share the same needs and hopes and relationships. We are in Community with the mom and dad in Ethiopia doing their best to keep their farm productive enough that they don't have to pull their kids out of school to help. We are in community with the little girl in Burundi who is learning how to carry a jerrycan on top of her head so she can make it the 2 miles home and get started on chores. We are in Community with the single mom in Haiti who occasionally breaks down when she thinks about the sort of future her son can expect.

And if we are to own our responsibility to the support of our Community, then it follows that we must own the needs of those members of our Community who need that outstretched arm. A Community can accomplish great things when it comes together. That's why I run. That's why #todayirun for Anderson, a 12 year old boy from Haiti - not the mainland, but a tiny island called the "Forgotten Island," with his single mother. Anderson isn't in school because he has to help his mom manage livestock and try to make ends meet. I know Anderson's mom has heartache over asking her son to forego his education. I know, because I would. And I know World Vision can help make it possible for Anderson's mom to send him back to school. They need their Community to come alongside them.

If you want to help Anderson and his mom, or if you're interested in sponsoring another child in our Community, let me know. Or click to explore on your own. I've seen our Community do amazing things. And I'm so grateful for your support.

On to Berlin!


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