Sunday, February 7, 2010

It Takes a Community

Several years ago a certain well known politician who is married to another well-known politician wrote a book about their philosophy of child-rearing. I never read the book and therefore am not qualified to give a review of it but from what I gathered from other reviews of the book and from comments the author had made, I didn't exactly agree with the point the author was trying to make. Maybe it was because I felt a social agenda was hidden in its pages, though I can't say for sure.

Despite my general distaste for the author and the general theme of the book I had pause a few days ago to reflect on a social phenomenon that has created in my mind a similar tone. Various forms of social networking have become immensely popular in our society and despite detractors from their worthiness, I have actually found satisfaction and joy from using them. You have to understand some of my underlying psyche to appreciate the fact that networking of any kind has always made me extremely uncomfortable. So, to think I would spend even the slightest ounce of energy on Twitter or Facebook is surprising. I guess I have to admit the past few years I have managed to crawl out of my shell.

So what does the book "It Takes a Village" have to do with the use of social networking devices? While I strongly disagree that children need to be raised by groups in our society I have developed a strong opinion that there is a place in the life of an athlete-in-training for support and encouragement from others. Coming from someone who enjoys spending time by himself, it is a bold step to admit there is real benefit from interacting with others. During the past couple of years it has been a startling realization how much it helps to get and give encouragement to those experiencing similar life challenges on the journey to athletic accomplishment. To read a runner's post about a recent injury and how it has devastated them and being willing to offer a word of encouragement or a suggestion for treatment is fantastic. To share in a friend's jubilation over a recent personal record in a race creates a wonderful feeling. I have been bowled over by the support given me by individuals I have never met face-to-face. To reach out across hyperspace and connect with a struggling athlete is therapy that can't be measured.

Lest you think I have become a fanatic over the use of social networking, I proudly admit there has never been nor will there ever be a substitute for those in my life nearest and dearest. I have been blessed with a wonderful family that give me all the love and support I need and want. I am so thankful, however, for the eye-opening experience of getting to know others I will never personally meet who live in places I will never go.

Does it take a village to raise a child? That is certainly debatable. Does it take a community to make an athlete? Not really, but, I believe it takes a community to to enhance and develop the experience of training. It takes a community to lift up and support those who are struggling. It takes a community to reach out across the miles and proclaim the message that you feel their share in their feelings of elation and help lift up their banner of accomplishment.

1 comment:

Drew said...

Nice post, Andy. While I don't necessarily subscribe to the kumbaya "It Takes A Village" theory (I haven't read it either), I have had the privilege of being a member of the military community. It's probably one of the few that truly pull together to help one another - especially when it comes to children. I can't tell you how many times I received assistance when times were dire.

That said, I agree the socially networked running community is an irreplacable support system, especially for those that are injured. Family and friends can have the best intentions when it comes to such matters, but our running peers are the ones that can offer true empathy. That goes a long way when one is hurt or hasn't lived up to their own expectations.

Cheers! -- Drew