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Monday, November 16, 2009

Taking the Low Road (The homeless don't run)

The homeless don't run. They have other concerns, such as finding a place to sleep, and food to eat. The Trinity group that participated in the Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge embraced the needs of the homeless - and those who are hungry in our city - by conducting a food drive for the San Antonio Food Bank in conjunction with the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll Marathon on November 15, 2009. In marathons, vitually all groups training together run for some charity. The food bank is a good one for us. It doesn't over-tax the students or their parents, and participants can learn about hunger by seeing need as they run through San Antonio.

Food matters to runners. Eating right, fueling up, and replenishing for recovery are all important elements of race training. It was against this back-drop that the Trinity runners took the food donation charge to heart (Challenge one: run; Challenge to: feed). We are blessed to see food in this context while others are forced to scrounge for meals. To drive home this of privilege we possess, the weekend training runs were intentionally designed to slowly show the contrast between the haves and have-nots in San Antonio. One of the favorite run of the program is through Olmos Park on Contour drive. Two of the later runs included one through downtown San Antonio near the SAMM Shelter and the bridge pictured above. The contrast is stark. In one running session you can literally run from mansion to sleeping bag and back.

Heading west on Commerce just past the skyline, one can take the high road - a long daunting rise of a hill - by running on the bridge and over the homeless... Or, one can literally run through them, below. On what I refer to as our one hunger run we ran through them. It was easier on the legs, but harder on the soul. Ironically, some of the homeless didn't care for us. We were heckled by the people we were running for. We were even jeered and imitated a bit. Mostly it was difficult to discern what people were saying, but it was clear that we, the privileged, were not really welcome in their space.

This run was not done to make a show of the homeless or to flaunt our luck and fortune. One runner said to me: "This is really eye-opening. It makes me want to help those people with less than me," and "I can't believe I have everything that I do, and then see this. I have to do something." THAT was the pay-off.

We could, and did, run back to campus and shower and sleep and play with our electronics. In our midst, though, we saw directly that there are those who need our help. Personally, as the leader of this program I had really anticipated that this would help the students learn a great lesson outside the classroom and beyond running. In truth, it affected me more than I expected. It made me want to be kinder, and more understanding, and more generous. It made me want to do more next year. It made me hungrier.

Note: The runners raised nearly $300 in food bank donations and collected the food items purchased.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for having your students run under the bridge! As an urban studies major, it is incredibly important to me that students get off campus, get out of the Quarry, and see the parts of San Antonio that represent the hard realities of life. More than this, I applaud that you approached this experience from the mindset that people should not be scared of the homeless or areas of town that are less than impressive. I get really upset when students paternistically refer to the homeless as "them", and I get even more upset when students use the word "sketch" in describing safe, but poor, areas of town. Thank you so much for setting the example in that we should not hide from or fear difference!

David Tuttle said...

I really appreciate your thoughtful response. It was a good start and next year I hope to repeat it and get even more runners out on that particular run. I have to say, I have been mentored by three great VPs here who have helped shape my thinking to be more broadly-based.