It’s cold here today and getting colder. The projected daytime high for tomorrow is a whopping -2 degrees before windchill. I know I’ve already written about how much I hate to be cold, but I can’t emphasize that fact enough. Oddly enough, though, when the weather gets like this it changes me. It freezes the apathy in my heart and suddenly I care more than usual about things I generally forget.
So today, as I sit in my heated home (wearing a cozy sweater and the Ugg boots that are so-hideous-I-cringe-as-I-put-them-on-but-so-comfy-and-warm-I-won’t-live-without them) and watch through insulated windows as the snow swirls and the outdoor temperature plummets, I can’t help but think of those who aren’t as fortunate as I am. On days like this when I’m such a baby that I whimper as I warm up my car and fire up its heavenly, heated leather seats, my mind turns to the multitude of homeless men and women I see on Denver’s streets each day. Denver, despite all its positive, noteworthy distinctions, also is in the top ten cities with the highest population of homeless individuals. Most days I manage to forget about the homeless. I tuck them neatly into the recesses of my mind so I don’t feel too uncomfortable about my cushy life. But, on days like today, I can’t stop thinking about them and hoping that they will find somewhere to be tonight so they don’t freeze to death.
It’s easy to become complacent about difficult things these days. There are so many of them (diseases, violence, natural disasters, political unrest, etc.), and they are constantly in the news. If we focused on the dark, scary things that come at us in this continual barrage of information, it would be hard to be positive, get out of bed each day, and live our lives. I have chosen to stop watching the news because I can’t deal with the negativity. I read it when I make the time. Otherwise, I often go about in happy oblivion because there is enough drama in my life without worrying about things out there that are out of my control but not outside my realm of concern.
A few years ago, however, I decided that I needed to do something to make a positive impact in a world. I wanted to gain some control over the negatives I hear about constantly, so I started doing athletic events that are fundraisers for charities. I know it’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s infinitely better than inaction. In 2006, I did my first two-day, 40-mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I raised $1800. The following year, I did another 40-mile walk and raised $2200. In 2009 I raised $2500 walking 50 miles for MS. Last year, I did 150 miles on my bike for MS and raised another $500. This year I will do another MS 150 ride and I hope to double what I raised last year.
I wish I could say that these events, including the hours upon hours of training and fundraising, were labors of love. Truth is, though, that there was nothing laborious about them. I got nothing but good things from my investment. I was working towards fitness goals, and I achieved them all. I got to spend time with people I genuinely like while training and participating. I was overwhelmed by the support I got from family and friends, both through donations made and by the people who actually showed up to cheer me on. Through the events, I made new friends and met many inspiring people. And, I got to feel powerful for a few minutes, knowing that my effort was a contribution to something much bigger and far reaching than myself. In the past few years, MS has become my chosen cause because of the increasing number of people I know personally who suffer because of it. Anything I can do while healthy to help them in their fight is a blessing to me. It reminds me how lucky I am. I walk and ride because I know people who can’t, and I can’t live with that.
So, today as I sit here enjoying the view of the snow from my warm home, I remember how lucky I am. And, I try to think of ways I can make a difference for someone else. It warms my heart to know there are others out there tonight, working in shelters and on the streets to help someone who is homeless because they care. Find something you care about and do something about it. You might change someone else’s life, but I know without a doubt that you will change your own.