[Editor’s Note – Below is post from “Coach Dan,” who is instrumental in The Race Before Us, Inc.’s efforts to encourage others to develop physically and spiritually through running and Christian apologetics. Bruce will be back soon to finish his series on the Camino de Santiago.]
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35 (NIV)
When I was a child, my grandmother would often say to me: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I’m not sure if that is what drives me to give back today, but I know it had a profound influence on my motivation. Several years ago I started a group in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, that helped homeless people prepare for a 10k race. When I first started this group, I did not know what to expect since I had no experience working with the homeless. I just knew I had to do something to help after reading a story about a young lady in Pennsylvania that did something similar. I was so touched by her story that I began taking note of the homeless people I saw on my weekend runs through the streets of downtown Richmond. I knew I had to help.
After doing some research and speaking to several great organizations that help support the homeless in Richmond, I found a void that needed to be filled. I approached the YMCA and asked if I could use its facility to create a running group for the homeless. The “Y” had a lot of questions and I had few answers, but together we decided to jointly move forward to create a program called “Keep it Movin.” That first year we recruited 23 people to train for their first 10k race. I was touched by this group in more ways than I can recall. Seeing people who were struggling just to get by, who were willing to show up week after week to train was more than I expected. More importantly, seeing the spirit they displayed each week and their eyes of determination gave me strength to recognize a stronger faith. It also touched others in the community, too. Countless friends and other runners in the community donated shoes, clothing and many other things to help support this new cause. Even businesses contributed to this worthy cause with donated registration entry fees, new shoes, and even race shirts. I was touched by the generosity of so many in Richmond that helped start this program in 2010. I am proud to say that this program is still going strong in the Richmond area. Through some great volunteer coaches, I have seen firsthand how we helped the homeless in our area.
So, when we think of generosity, I’ve learned it is not the size of the gift or the nobility of the cause. It is doing something first hand where you can see the result. Helping someone who needs it can be so rewarding. We might call someone “generous,” who contributes a modest sum to a charitable cause to promote the good of society. But I believe Jesus measures generosity by the condition of the giver’s heart. The apostle Paul said that even the most lavish donations are empty acts in God’s sight if the giver’s heart is hardened toward him (1 Corinthians 13:3).
Last month, we created a half marathon (13.1 miles) training program (through the YMCA) for our community in the far west end of Richmond. We reached out to the homeless community and I’m proud to say that we have 5 homeless people training in our program to complete their first half marathon race. Our half marathon training program is about 100 strong and when I look out into the crowd each week, it gives me joy to see these special people on the team. No one is called out for who they are or aren’t, we are just a group of runners working together to achieve the goal of finishing the race!
The Race Before Us organization has been instrumental in helping us provide shoes and clothing for the homeless. Two of the five runners in this group are high school kids and it is touching to see them put on a pair of new running shoes for the first time. Enjoy the pictures below. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces after receiving a new pair of shoes is priceless.