received a running trophy period. That's not why the trophy brought me to tears, though. The tears came because I knew the story behind the trophies. They came because the trophies so beautifully represent what this race says about the community and connections that are the power behind the Run for Respect.
Two years ago, Laura reached out to her friend Andrew Rice. They grew up together in Pontiac. Andrew teaches an industrial technology class at Manual Academy in Peoria, Illinois, and Laura thought maybe his students could create trophies for the Run for Respect.
In some ways, the students in Andrew's class are fighting for respect much like Laura's. Many of them have grown up in challenging circumstances, and having someone like Mr. Rice believe in them has been a much needed spark in their lives.
This year, Laura did something a little different, though. She took some of her students an hour or so up the road to meet her friend Andrew's students. Her students got to meet the trophy-makers, and the trophy-makers got to meet first hand exactly who'd be taking the trophies away.
I wasn't there. I don't need to have been to know how Andrew's students felt. I used to virtually run the annual Run for Respect. It was a good and worthy cause. Then one day Laura and three of her students came to meet me and some of my friends while we were in Chicago. I met the kids behind the Run for Respect I had only previously been able to get to know from a 1000 miles away.
As I talked with my new friends - Austin and Mitch and Nick - I felt a cause I once ran for turning into a purpose I could get behind living for. What was once something I poured my time, money and legs into, in an instant became a connection worth building relationships on. It was something suddenly worth traveling to Pontiac, Illinois to share with others in person.
I wasn't the only one who traveled to Pontiac this year. Those students who made the trophies for the race - after they met Laura's kids they too decided they needed to come be a part of the Run for Respect. Because they did, we not only got to hang out with Laura's students, we also got to meet Andrew's students.
When we shook those students' hands and told them how much we appreciated the trophies, we saw pride. We saw young people with a purpose. There's something amazing that happens when we help each other discover purpose.
I for one don't believe we discover our purpose in life. I belief life, and God, reveal that to us through others.
It's revealed when we travel to Pontiac and make real what was once virtual.
It's revealed when trohy-makers meet trophy-takers, and they both understand one is not possible without the other.
It's revealed when teachers pour themselves into their students and their communities. When the lessons they teach become about living together and not taking a test as an individual.
So a funny story.
My buddy Tracey and I received these beautiful trophies at the dinner the night before the race. Our good friend Nicole, she did not. Tracey and I, never ones to miss an opportunity to poke fun at our dear friend, told her she was simply being sent the message she'd have to go out and earn her trophy.
I'll never forget standing at the awards ceremony after the race. They were calling out the names of the winners of each of the age groups - the people who would get one of the trophies. The ceremony arrived at our friend Nicole's age group; our friend Laura was calling out the names.
Third place - not Nicole.
Second place - not Nicole.
First place - and a trophy - our friend Nicole.
Nicole walked up to the table of trophies, got hers, and walked back toward us. The emotions I felt seeing her hold that trophy went way beyond her winning a race. Way beyond her coming full circle on a joke that started the night before. It was more about life coming full circle.
We get into this running thing wanting to do our best, and maybe somewhere along the way we pick up some medals, and maybe a trophy or two. But the lucky runners, like me, we discover running has a deeper purpose. And it's not about the trophies. It's about the trophy-makers and the trophy-takers, and how they reveal to us the beautiful way we are all connected.
Run for Respect. Maybe that's what that race is about. Maybe that's what running in general is about. Maybe respect is all about discovering the beautiful way we are all connected. If so, I saw a lot of respect in Pontiac, Illinois last weekend. God willing, I'll see it again in 2020.
Life is like running.