Running For Change

Archives: Education

If you want to run forever, some times you can not run today – I will not be running in the 2014 marathon

Life is funny. Hardly anything seems to go as predicted or hoped for. On the other hand, if it has, then perhaps you have not taken too many risks. Me, I love risks and adventure. This journey of marathon has certainly been an adventure filled with risks. As I have learned in 2012 and 2013, you can plan for what you believe will happen but will then be faced with elements you had never imagined. The brutal heat of 2012 struck me down and then the terrible bombing of 2013 redefined what I take for granted in life. Well, the 2014 year has introduced me to an element of challenge that I would have never predicted would stand in the way of me and finally cross the finish line at the Boston marathon. That element is myself. Continue reading

Do not grab me

I remind myself every day that people have good intentions. Sure, they may do or say something that is ignorant, but they do have good intentions. This does not allow for me to feel that what they have said or done is acceptable, but it simply helps me understand and be empathetic. More often than not, I find myself working very hard to practice this when people are trying to be of assistance, but are actually being insensitive and honestly unawaringly insulting.
Continue reading

This has been the longest prelude, ever

I have been working my way through another slight set back this year. In late January, I slightly twisted my left ankle during a run with my guide for the marathon this year. It was not a terrible twist, but the issue is that it was the ankle and leg I have had injuries with over the last 2 years. Because of this, this slight twist had a strong impact on my ability to run. Fortunately, I have been seeing a physical therapist and I am back in running shape. I am in a bit of a time crunch, but with a solid 7 weeks left to run, I feel confident that this is plenty of time to fit in some good long runs and be prepared for the marathon this year. Well, it is enough time for an amature runner to be able to train to the extent that they know they will be able to cross the finish line of a marathon. That’s good enough. Continue reading

Losing vision – I will walk a little slower, but run a little faster

I have been reflecting on what has been posted on this blog. There is much about perspective, successes in culture and challenges in culture towards disability as well. I have written about the feelings I experience when I run and what this has meant for others. Many powerful and important topics have been covered on this blog and in my outreach. On the other hand, I have neglected to write about something that is not only important, but inevitable to experience in my life and others who are in a similar situation as myself. That experience is the feeling of realizing when your vision has further dwindled… the feeling of knowing that something just happened that never would have happened in the past. The feeling of telling yourself it was just a random accident and that you were spacing out. Continue reading

Crazy Train

I had a whole other post ready to be put up today, but today was an interesting day and I felt inspired to write about something different. I have always found the train system in Boston to be fascinating. It is not fascinating because it can just about get me anywhere in the city, but because of the environment, the culture and the experiences I have been a part of over the last 3 years.
What I will say, is that I feel 95% of the people on the train are in their own little world. People do not really talk to one another (if they don’t already know the other person), rarely make observation or offer to those who may benefit more from a seat and when people do talk, you never know what you are going to over hear. I have heard political debates, people discuss sexual encounters and a few other scandalous things. It is either silent, or entertaining. Continue reading

Farts, my pink tie and 150 high schoolers… yikes!

I had a blast talking to a small group of high schoolers who were at Perkins this summer for a brief special program.  There were 6 or 7 students and we had an amazing conversation.  Well, I am apparently having another conversation with a group of high schoolers, but the audience will be many times greater than that at Perkins; approximately 100 to 150.  Oh me, oh my.

My friends’ partner works as a high school teacher in the Boston area and she is assisting with the coordination of the National High School Journalism Convention that will be taking place in November of this year.  This convention is sponsored by the National Schoolastic Press Association and from what I have read, approximately 4,000 delegates will be attending this week-long event.  There are many different components to this convention, some of which are featured keynotes, workshops regarding year books, school newspapers and broadcasting as well as writing competitions.  There will be several writing competitions and one is regarding sports.  I have been asked to come and give a 20 minute speech followed by 15 minutes of Q/A with the students in the room.  After the Q/A, the students are given a finite amount of time and are asked to write a piece regarding my story and what came to light through the Q/A with the audience. Continue reading

The Nazis were not the only ones

Recently, I started reading a book titled Pride against prejudice: Transforming attitudes to disability, by Jenny Morris (1991 original publication).  Jenny is out of the UK and became partialy paralyzed when she was 33.  She was tending to work at her home when she heard and saw a very young child standing at the edge of a cliff that was 20 feet above a railway.  Jenny went to rescue the child, but she encountered her own troubles and fell off of the cliff; immediately breaking her back and becoming paralyzed from the waist down.

This experience obviously impacted Jenny in many ways.  Fortunately, one of them turned into becoming very active in fighting disablism and educating the world on this complex topic, as all topics of oppression, culture and history related to identity are.  The book that I am currently reading strongly incorporates the feminist perspective and a lens for viewing disability in general, but also in specific for women.  However, the feminist perspective and movement is not just for women.  I strongly believe it is a philosophy, a study, a lens and way of life which can and does bring the world under a critical scope that betters the lives of all.  Not just women.  So for my “brothers” out there, take a chill pill and check this stuff out, for what it really is.  Not just what you see on TV or hear in the locker room. Continue reading

Let’s make a movie

My recent trip to Perkins School for the Blind was incredible.  It was nothing less than a beautiful honor to be invited to come and talk with visually impaired youth who are thinking about the future; graduating high school, the possibility for college, achieving independence and as I view it, claiming the life they desire and deserve.  Obviously, this journey is filled with challenges and I did not shy from this.  As I told them, it is not all puppies and rainbows.  You will have very difficult and challenging days, but you must push on if you want what you are after.  We had a wonderful conversation and had many things in common with one another.  One of the young women in this group had told me that I was inspiring.  I heard her shout this when they left the room and I felt many things towards this.  The most important was the strong feeling that I must do more.

Continue reading

Me talking to children? I hope I make sense

A dear friend of mine, Doug, who was also one of my guides for the 2012 Boston Marathon and graced the pages of the Boston Globe with me, works at Perkins School for the Blind.  For those of you who do not know, Perkins is a k-12 private school which provides an incredible education designed for children who are visually impaired.  Students also live on campus and have the opportunity to participate in special summer programs.  Many of these summer programs are also open to students who are not enrolled full time at the school.  This summer, Doug had suggested that I come as a guest speaker to a group of high school students who are on campus for the summer, participating in a special program.  I will be heading over to the campus this Wednesday to talk to 6 young people about my educational attainment, finding work and engage them in a mutual conversation about what opportunities are in their future and what we can do to make those opportunities happen.

I must admit, this is a pretty great honor and I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to connect with a group of high schoolers who are probably processing some of the same dreams and worries as I was at that age.  Heck, I am still processing some of those same dreams and worries.

We will have around an hour to chat.  I have thought very, very hard about what I will say.  I’ve considered coming up with a “top 3 principles for success”, or some cheesey thing along those lines.  I finally relaxed and realized that this is all about finding out the experiences, possible needs and goals of these kids.  All I can really share is that I have set goals and I have come across quite a few obstacles.  Some of these obstacles I could predict and some came out of left field at 100 miles a second with no warning.  I’ve been knocked down and I have been helped back up.  I have been knocked down and I have clawed my way back onto my knees.  What I have accomplished has required being honest with myself.  Staying in New Hampshire, where I grew up, would have been easy.  However, I knew what my dreams were and I knew that I had to go to the city for them to come true.  I knew I had to throw myself into a city, alone, to find my dreams and find my own way.

At age 24,  and as a blind man, to some extent, I stripped myself of the supports that had seen me through my undergraduate experience.  Some were still there for me, and some were not.  I saw this new chapter of my life as the ultimate test.  To take on graduate school, learn how to live in a city, to build a new network of friends and loved ones and to greatly build upon what had previously been built.

I did not know where the train stops were, I did not know how to operate the washer and dryer in the basement of my first apartment, I was not too sure of how to get groceries and I was not too sure of how to make myself happy.  I was not too sure of how to make myself feel safe.  You know, in the movie BIG with Tom Hanks, shortly after he turns into an adult, that scene where he spends a night in a hotel alone?  He hears screams and a gun shot out on the street, and then he takes to the bed and cries.  He is a grown man, yet inside, and especially in that moment, he is a child.  Everything is new, everything is unknown and everything is a little frightening and in that place, he was alone.  That is how I first felt when I moved to Boston.  Like I said in my last post, though, I made it.

I hope to find out what these kids are up to and what some of their goals may be.  Their goals and dreams do not need to be like mine and I do not want them to be, I just want them to have dreams.  I’m sure as hell going to tell them that they can achieve them.  It may not be easy, but it is all doable.

Speaking of achieving goals, a reader of my blog, who happens to be one of the sisters from Montana, is raising funds for several of her cousins who have a condition that is degenerative and causes gradual loss of mobility.  I will be making a donation to Cindy and would love it if folks would consider doing the same!

http://www.crowdrise.com/ganwarriorscom/fundraiser/cindyjessopthomas