Saturday, April 28, 2012

Back on My Feet--More than Just a Running Service--An Approach to Life

Yesterday, I happened to be staying overnight in Washington DC for a two day conference.  Since I know that Back on My Feet groups everywhere run Monday/Wednesday/Friday during the week, on Thursday, I emailed a staff member of Back on My Feet--Baltimore, who put me in touch with a staff member from Back on My Feet--Washindton DC, who put me in touch with two team leaders, and less than 24 hours later I was leaving my hotel to jog for a circle up with Team La Casa at 5:45 AM in a part of Washington DC I'd never seen before.  I enjoyed running 2 miles with the group, meeting a lot of new people, and adding a few miles as a social activity rather than just a run as part of my 6.5 mile total yesterday morning.  But running with Back on My Feet in a different city while away for work is not just about finding a few people to run with for a social activity.

Back on My Feet has established a process by which its team get togethers proceed.  I felt immediately at ease meeting and greeting with hugs as I arrived.  The team in DC circled up and had announcements in a way that seemed familiar.  Their approach to learning everyone's name was a bit different than my team's in Baltimore but that is okay.  Each person said their name just once and answered a question.  Yesterday's was favorite cupcake flavor--red velvet in my case.  Then the run with lots of chatting and a circle at the end that ended with the cheer "Back on My Feet--Keep coming back".

In the starting circe, the team leader for La Casa mentioned the degree to which Back on My Feet provides community so that they could have the opportunity to welcome a Baltimore teammate who happened to be in town for the day.  One could also refer to as a just plain "company" rather than community but it is definitely something more.  I also heard it referred to as fellowship or "extended family" in a figurative way.  The community feeling is always present.  And being referred to as a teammate who just happened to be from Baltimore was a reminder that other than the fact that some of those who run with Back on My Feet are in some type of recovery while others come from the community to run with them, once we are in circle we are all just teammates.  Everyone is equal.  Everyone cares about each other.

The organization is not religious.  We do recite a version of the Serenity Prayer at least once for each run.  Team La Casa actually recited it at the start and finish.  But that is a general prayer for serenity, courage, and wisdom to a higher power as it is treated within the organization.  Despite the fact that the organization is not explicitly "of any faith" the principles of community, care for each other, and equality among members reminded me of something from the Bible and one interpretation of the success of early Christianity.  On the first, the Bible verses I am thinking of are Matthew22:36-40 from the New American Bible Revised Edition:

36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.
39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

It is verse 39 which is most striking and makes me think of the approach to others promoted by Back on My Feet.

For the early Christian community, there was a Frontline program on PBS where I saw at least one historian's interpretation.  You can read the complete story here.   Here is the paragraph I find most moving:

"Now the Christian community, as we have it particularly in the letters of Paul, begins with a formula that is a baptismal formula, which says in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free. This is a sociological formula that defines a new community. Here is a community that invites you, which makes you an equal with all other members of that community. Which does not give you any disadvantages. On the contrary, it gives even the lowliest slave personal dignity and status. Moreover, the commandment of love is decisive. That is, the care for each other becomes very important. People are taken out of an isolation."
Back on My Feet is still a young organization guided by a powerful idea. If the idea and the organization continue to be nurtured so that I feel the sense of community at every run with Team Christopher's Place, at every local race the entire Baltimore BoMF family runs, and every time when I try to get together with local groups when I travel, and if the organizational leadership (paid and volunteer) does their best to make sure that everyone shares that sense of community, I believe the organization will go far.

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