On Jan 28th hundreds of runners from Friendship Circle chapters worldwide formed Team Friendship and ran the Miami Marathon in support of friendship & inclusion for our friends with special needs. Shira Perton, a longtime volunteer and runner shared her thoughts about the weekend! To learn more visit www.TeamFriendship.org
This past weekend I ran in the Miami Marathon for my third time, so you can imagine that I thought the weekend would be pretty routine. There was nothing more that I could learn, nothing more that I could see that would really leave a lasting impression on me. Thankfully I was very wrong, as they say the 3rd times the charm. This was a weekend that I could not have predicted. There were many conversations about friendship but the one I'd like to share only happened once the weekend was over.
I went on a walk the day after the race, because most normal people do that right? Anyways, I was on my way out of a coffee pit stop when a boy walked by me and said “hello!” Now I want to preface that I usually don't talk to strangers, but every part of his smile made it seem like this was okay. We exchanged hellos and I wished him a good day, as I began my walk again he asked me “Do I know you?”
“I don’t think so, what’s your name”
“Hi Eric! I’m Shira, how old are you?”
From our beginning exchange I learnt that Eric was from Miami, 24 years old and was autistic. Sorry, I meant to say artistic. In the most literal sense, because within his hands he was holding a comic book that he was creating titled Wheelain Rescue Warriors! I asked him what he was creating and he told me all about his rescue series, as we sat down he agreed that he could draw something for me and it gave me a chance to look through his soon to be famous book. As I flipped through the colorfully drawn pages I realized that his book was the way he viewed the world, there were people depicted as numbers, glue bottles and so much more. One page in particular that left a lasting impression and really left the entire weekend full circle was one page, where we saw a girl sitting with the glue bottle and the number eight and the page read:
“Together we can discover what our powers are made of” says Tain.
“You mean like superpowers and stick it up a notch?” Asks Patrick
“Si! We can stop the dark force and restore peace” Says Juanita
These pages allowed me to look right into the lenses that Eric used to look at the world, and he was seeing some pretty magical things. And that is when it hit me, we all know that we are each uniquely different, there is no way that even identical twins are 100% the same and that is what makes us all so special.
This weekend we talked about the concept of friendship and I realized how lucky I was that Friendship Circle taught me what it means to be a friend.
Friendship is about the ability to feel like an equal amongst each other, where we can be vulnerable to learn and grow alongside each other, some of my greatest and truest friendships were made within the familiar walls of Friendship Circle.
Starting a weekend where I met so many people who were doing this for something as simple as friendship that we all sometimes take for granted, to then running a marathon and having the support of a million strangers I realized that this is what it’s all about.
Doing good feels good, and even though running didn’t always feel great, the support that I had from every single person who was wearing the same friendship jersey that I had or any other type of running gear made the run feel like a breeze. Eric, had no idea who I was, yet he was able to look at me and see an equal, the unique thing about friendship is that you can still notice the strengths within your friend and realize that we are each so special and unique in our own way. Eric let me into his artful world, where the entire world was unique, and not cookie cutter as most societal norms endure, he was apologetically himself. I don’t know if Eric will remember our interaction this past Monday, but it is something I keep reliving every day, and I challenge each and every one of you, to think of your Eric.
Think about how you can improve your interpersonal relationships somehow so that we can get the most out of what friendship and the world around us have to offer. It’s crazy to think that just a week ago I thought I was going to go to Florida, run a marathon and then go back to my everyday life, you can’t just accept ordinary; especially when Friendship is involved.