Monday, June 15, 2015

10K, Homelessness, and Other Stuff

My daughter and I did a 10K on Saturday. It was a lot of fun. It was a huge event - nearly 17,000 people. When I signed up, I listed us as "walkers" vs. "runners" since it was necessary to choose one or the other. I figured it would be better to sign up as a walker and then to run than to sign up as a runner and then to walk. They split the participants into five "corrals," with walkers being in the last corral. This event was a lot larger than the 5K we did last month. It took 1/2 hour before we even made it to the start line. By then, the elite runners had already run the 10K and were crossing the finish line as we were crossing the start line. I live in the Midwest so a bunch of fleet-footed Kenyans is not a sight I see every day!

Anyway, we ended up running for only intermittent spurts. Being surrounded by thousands of walkers made it hard to get enough open space to run. Next year I may sign up as a runner and then claim a spot in the last runners' corral.  For the second mile, there were a lot of DJs and musicians, including a polka band. I started to dance, mostly just so I could see the look of horror on my tween's face. "Mom! We. Are. In. Public!" The next few years are going to be a lot of fun. I can just feel it!

By the halfway mark, the kid started to complain of fatigue. This may have had something to do with the fact that she did not go to bed at a reasonable hour on Friday, despite her mean old mother providing periodic "you really should go to bed now" reminders. She soldiered on, though. And by "soldiered on," I mean "complained incessantly."  We finished, though. We even held hands as we ran across the finish line together.

Back at home, we had lunch and then I took a long, hot bath. My hips weren't happy with me, so I thought a bath might help. After that, the kid and I packed the car and hit the road. We were volunteering at a pet expo on Sunday and wanted to make a weekend of it. I got a hotel on Priceline, but we didn't get lucky this time - no pool. In a way, it was a good thing because I didn't have to hear "when can we go swimming?" a thousand times.  We stopped to do some Father's Day shopping at an outlet mall that's about an hour away from our home. When I got out of the car, my hips said, "Don't even try walking normally. We're locked in place now!" I guess the hour in the car was too much for them. I hobbled across the parking lot like I was about 99 years old. My hips loosened up as the day went on but I had more fun ahead - the sole of my left foot started hurting later that day.

About an hour later, we reached our destination and went out to eat at a vegan/vegetarian restaurant. I was tempted to order one of everything. I'm used to having only one choice in most restaurants and even then, it usually has to be modified in some way (like "no mayo"). Vegan mayo is becoming more prevalent, though, so I have faith.

After dinner, we walked around for a little while, still on the hunt for Father's Day gifts. We were in a busy downtown area, near a major university. As we walked down the main drag where all the shops are, my daughter spotted a homeless person holding a sign. I realized that this was a first for her. A few minutes earlier, she had found two quarters and a nickel on a curb near a cab stand. After we walked by the homeless man, she turned and ran back, putting the change in his box. Then, a block later, we walked past a homeless woman with a sign asking for "anything you can spare." It wasn't long before we spotted a third. And then I needed to answer some questions that were building up. As we slowed so that I could speak to her, she turned and saw that the first man now had a sandwich that someone had just given him. "Mom, he's got some food now!" She seemed so relieved.

So, I did my best to explain homelessness.  I grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC, so I was aware of the issue from an early age. I remember going downtown and seeing people sleeping on grates just steps from the National Mall. In my early 20s, I worked in Old Town Alexandria and regularly saw homeless people there as well. I tried to explain to my daughter that, unfortunately, it's probably not practical to give money to every person you see.

I tried to explain some of the reasons for homelessness. For some, it's often a matter of bad luck. One month of missed rent turns into two and before you know it,  you're in deep trouble. For some, it might be a series of not-so-great decisions and/or drug use. I also explained to my daughter that homelessness is often tied to mental illness, too. A lot of mental health facilities have closed, leaving the former patients with nowhere to go. There may be some small minority of homeless Americans who actually choose homelessness.  So, it's a complex issue and I'm not sure I did the best job of explaining it. I tried, though. I was touched that my sweet girl was so worried about the men and woman she saw on Saturday evening.  I can't help but hope that she'll make the connection between the people she saw and her room full o'stuff.

Later that evening, we checked into our hotel room, only to find that we were stuck with a queen bed. First-world problems, right? I briefly fantasized about making the nocturnal kicker sleep in the bathtub.

The next morning, we headed to the pet expo and worked for a few hours before heading back home. I was proud of the kid because she was selling raffle tickets like nobody's business. Innocent passersby who had no interest in our raffle found themselves opening their wallets and buying tickets from the irresistible curly-haired girl who was hawking them. We have one particular volunteer who works in sales (at his day job). So, they made quite the team. He would get people in the booth and then turn them over to our "Marketing Manager," the ten-year-old who would happily sell them some tickets. It was a good day. 

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