In the opening scene of the holiday movie Love Actually, Hugh Grant’s character has a beautiful monologue that begins, “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I go to the arrivals gate at Heathrow airport.” He continues to talk about the greetings, farewells, and love that is shared at the airport — welcoming and sending off loved ones: family, friends, and significant others. He says this is a reminder of the love in the world, and its power to outshine the hate. Standing at the finish line of the Outer Banks marathon and half marathon, tears came to my eyes over and over again. Whether it was a group of older women who made it through together, the first marathon runner to cross the finish line, a son who jumped the fence to cross the finish line with his father…it was a sight full of joy, celebration, and love. It was an emotional, beautiful, and overwhelming time. Even more than that, it was inspiring. It made me want to train harder, challenge myself, push myself to grow and accomplish more. It reminded me of the power of sharing love and the community that can be built around a common cause. I started thinking about the lines from Love Actually, and decided that the next time I feel “gloomy with the state of the world,” I want to go stand at the finish line of a marathon.
After running in the Outer Banks, I started thinking about the Boston Marathon bombings last spring. I heard about the horror of those events on the news, but standing there at the finish line of the Outer Banks Marathon shed a new light on it for me. It reminded me what an affront those bombings were to the joy, love, and celebration present at the finish line of a race. I now have a little bit more insight into why so many runners made the point of running more in response to the bombings. Like them, I got angry that people would intentionally desecrate something so beautiful, something that represents hard work, accomplishment, and the deep human connection possible through shared experiences.
So, what do we do about this? Even in our small, day-to-day decisions we are standing for something. Some idea, value, or vision. And with this stance, we are also often saying “no” to its alternative. Running a race, setting up a health display, buying fair trade chocolate or eating or serving a healthy meal may seem insignificant, but they represent something much bigger. hat healthy meal represents a powerful belief that God has created us to be made whole — to thrive in mind, body and spirit. It stands against the startling statistics of childhood obesity, health disparities, and chronic disease. Decisions to support fair trade stand up for fair treatment, human dignity and justice, and stand against the systems that value cheapness at any cost. Health ministries in the church share that the Good News is proclaimed to all creation — including our very bodies. So, I will run to participate in community, run to challenge myself and push my body, run to stay healthy and steward my body. And yes, even run to stand against the violence and hatred in the world, and to join a community of people gathering around a shared love, people who know how to cheer, support, and show love to one another. What will you do?
Partners in Health and Wholeness is an initiative of the North Carolina Council of Churches. PHW aims to connect health as a faith issue. Please visit our website to sign your personal pledge to be healthier, and to find out about grant opportunities for places of worship in NC.