Not So Selfish? And a Perspective on Gratitude

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m sure all my running friends put the gear on and went out for a few miles before dinner to get in some healthy exercise and free up some calories for that second piece of pie. I was in downtown Ann Arbor Thursday morning for the Turkey Trot, joining 3,000 people in turkey costumes and ugly sweaters (there was a contest) for a fun, untimed 5K. (A good thing, given it was snowing at race time).

Turkey hunting, 2013: First you make friends, then you invite him over for dinner...
Turkey hunting, 2013: First you make friends with him, then you invite him over for dinner…

Did I mention there was an ugly sweater contest?

I sure hope she won something for that effort.
I sure hope she won something for that effort.

So in my last post, I mentioned that the “baby boom” generation can be accused, with some justification, of being overly self-centered and “wanting it all.” For this particular weekend where we focus on being grateful, here are some examples of the kind of behavior we ought to recognize more often.

 Runner’s World article – Helping Hands Under the Golden Gate Bridge

Ken Hopper, an ironworker in San Francisco, noticed some years ago that a fence at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge was a popular turnaround point for runners. So in 2000 he put up a sign with a painted pair of hands on it, to give the runners ‘something more inspiring’ to touch than a rusty fence. The sign remains there to this day, although it is replaced every few years, and touching “Hopper’s Hands” has become a tradition for area runners. (Click the link above to see photos.)

But Hopper is involved in something else more significant – he is involved in trying to prevent people from suicidal jumps off the bridge – an unfortunately popular activity – and has saved many lives by either talking them down or physically restraining them. So the painted hands have taken on an association with saving lives, as though the hands are reaching out to stop the jumpers.

Running for Charity

Today I signed up for the late December Rock the Clock 5K which supports the Gerad Meteyer Foundation, a volunteer-run charity that supports sending underprivileged diabetic children to summer camp. I didn’t sign up just for that, but it’s nice to know that at least some of my entry fee will go to making other lives better.

Most of the running events I participate in, either as a racer or pacer, support one or more charities. Many marathons provide entries to those who want to run on a charity team. To get the entry you must raise a certain amount of money for that charity. And perhaps the most well-known race in Michigan other than the Detroit Marathon, the Crim Festival of Races was created to support a fitness foundation and has been going strong since 1977.

Quality Digest article: Statistically, How Thankful Should We Be?

This one has no relation to running, but quality improvement is pretty much a part of everything I do (and is my full-time job), so I was pleasantly surprised to see some actual statistics regarding world income levels and the state of poverty. Here are a few highlights. Read the articles for details and graphs (I promise they aren’t too thick-headed.)   Links to articles:   Part 1     Part 2

– Using a “poverty metric” of $1 U.S. dollar per day income, researchers found that the world poverty rate fell by 80 percent from 1970 to 2006, and the total number of poor fell from 403 million to 152 million. Even more impressive considering the world population continues to grow.

– Income inequality is increasing in most countries, but is decreasing overall. In 1970, more people were very poor (i.e. more “equal” in income terms). With fewer people now living in poverty, income inequality has increased. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing. How about that?

– In 2000, an income of $2,138 U.S. dollars put you in the wealthiest half of the world, and $61,000 put you in the top 10 percent.

Are you feeling just a little more grateful after all this? I hope so. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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