Erin Leigh used to go to my church, where somehow we never really connected. This is sad because we were clearly supposed to be besties. Perhaps it is for the best. I don’t know that the world could handle that. She ran a first marathon last spring to raise money for the education of 26 girls in Nepal. This was after she moved to NYC because she was ready for a change, and now she is running her second marathon for a second year of education for the same 26 girls.
Bravery is My Fickle Boyfriend by Erin Leigh Patterson
We’ve all known him. The allusive guy who is too cool for words, way-out-of-my-league kind. Not the nice one who tells you how he feels and communicates and leaves no mystery (read: boring). The nice one, he is nice. Nice is great, but bravery… Bravery is allusive.
This weekend I ran 17 miles. 17 miles at my slow pace allows for lots of thinking time. I mostly thought about the hamburger I would later dominate, but I also thought a lot about the girls in Nepal who are in school. I thought about their strength and that their strength is pure and beautiful and so very needed. I stole some of their strength as I was running. Thankfully strength begets strength and there’s no finite amount, but plenty to go around.
In thinking about strength I remembered Abby’s blog post from earlier this year, how she told her daughters that they “help people do things that are brave and strong.” I remember being a big puddle of tears as I read that, partly because all the miles wear me out so I was really tired, and also because it was so humbling to be associated with the words “strong” and “brave”.
There’s that fickle boyfriend. I want to be brave, really I do. But me?
But here’s the thing I’m learning while training for my second marathon: I wasn’t born brave or strong. No one was. We were just born. Being brave, it’s an act. “People who do things that are brave and strong.” Abby didn’t say she helps her friends who are brave. But the ones who do things that are strong.
I didn’t wake up one day and decide to run 17 miles. I woke up one day, got offered a spot in the NYC Marathon, took it because I am no fool, and then I started training. I am not going to complete the marathon if I can’t complete 17 miles. It’s basic math. But just like you exercise your muscles to lift weights and start humbly with 5 pounds, life lets us start small.
Whatever situation I am in these days I am finding the need to exercise different muscles. I have a new job and often have no idea what is going on. I am trying to run another marathon and have no idea how to keep my tired eyes open while working at said job. I am trying to raise awareness about girls’ education so we can raise enough money to send 26 girls to school for their 2nd year and… yeah.
Strong starts small. And brave, well brave might be fickle but it only needs to last for a few crazy minutes while you make a crazy decision. The rest of that story is what makes you strong.
(This is Abby again) I love this post because it shows the way we see ourselves versus the way others see us. Erin Leigh IS brave and strong. Always. And yet…it surprises her. I am working on a theory that self-image is like a fun house mirror, and we need someone else to hold up the mirror or we can’t get an accurate perception of ourselves.
If you would like to support Erin Leigh in her Brave and Strong efforts you can:
Tweet encouragement at her. Training for a marathon is a THING and she is DOING IT. Let us encourage her. (@erinleighnyc)
Spread the Word. Share the heck out of this post, and her story.
Pray for her. And tell her. Send her your prayers for her, ask her for a girl she is raising money for that you can support in prayer. You can use email: Erinleigh (dot) Patterson (at) gmail (dot) com or twitter: @erinleighnyc
Support her effort financially. Educating girls is one of the best ways to serve a developing nation. Erin Leigh is running 26 miles (again!) to raise money for a second year of education for 26 girls. I don’t want to train for a marathon, so instead I will give her money. You can support her efforts by donating here.