I was running through the park yesterday when I stopped to tie my shoelace.
As I stood up, I noticed an old man slowly walking towards me. His salt and pepper grey flecked beard framed his face.
The last few moments of sunlight for the day reflected in his light blue eyes.
He gestured to me with a kind of wave and I waited, hesitantly, wondering what he wanted to say.
If I’m completely honest with you, I felt impatient;
I wanted to get home,
I was still miles away
and I didn’t feel like talking, especially to an old man I didn’t even know.
I wondered if I should ignore him, pretend I hadn’t seen him.
But I couldn’t. Just couldn’t.
I walked towards him and smiled.
He smiled back.
He told me his name was Harry and that he walks through the park every day with his dog.
He lost his wife three years ago.
They used to walk through the park together, linking arms.
Now he walks on his own.
He asked about my running, he said he’s seen me before in the park.
I told him about my upcoming marathon.
I patted his dog on the head, told Harry that he has a very cute dog.
Harry agreed and told me he better get them both home before it got dark, “don’t want to get locked in the park”, he said.
We said goodbye.
I ran. Harry slowly walked.
I felt glad.
Glad that I had stopped and talked to Harry.
A simple connection, a sharing of words, just a few seconds in my day.
I sang happy birthday yesterday evening, to a photo of my mum. It would have been her 65th birthday. She’s been gone 13 years now and yet, in that moment, I still needed the connection with her. I needed to hear myself sing the words, “happy birthday, dear mum“, because I don’t get to say “mum” anymore.
We all need connection, you know.
Humans are hard-wired to connect, to attach, from the second we’re born.
Connection underpins what makes us human.
It cultivates happiness
Connection is the cornerstone of belonging.
It’s why prisons use solitary confinement as a form of torture.
We go mad when we can’t connect with others.
It’s why we scroll through our Twitter and Facebook feeds. It’s why we write blogs – it’s our way of reaching out to others and saying, “Hey, I see you“.
We all want to be heard, to be noticed, to tell our stories.
Just like Harry in the park.
On the 12th May 2013, I’m hosting, along with my close friend, Laura Fountain, an event that will bring together a beautiful community of runners and writers.
Write This Run will see a collective of people who are all so brilliantly unique and passionate and inspiring, meet each other in person for a day of sharing and listening and seeing and being and hearing and connecting.
It’s chance to tell our stories. Together.
Will you be there?