Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Tue, 2 Dec 2003 08:08:08 -0500

Giving Thanks


(rerun from December 1997 RC)

George Sheehan wrote so well that even his rejects sang. Runner's World turned down an occasional essay of his. One of those dealt with the fine, often forgotten art of saying thank-you.

"We runners are a self-centered lot," he began. "In our preoccupation with performance at races, we don't often pause to think about who made the racing possible or take time to thank all concerned."

He pointed an accusing finger at himself in this setting. "I'm no better than anyone else. I should say thanks at every water station, to every traffic guard, to the people at the chute and end by thanking the race director, yet I rarely do."

George handed out thank-yous more freely while going about his everyday business. "Why thank people who have just done their job?" he wrote. "The answer, it seems to me, is that the thank-you completes the action of being served.

"Giving thanks is the role of the recipient. When the donor is not thanked, when good wishes and good words don't go from heart to heart, a chain in human interaction is broken."

George wrote this essay for Thanksgiving, "a day on which we thank the Lord for His blessings. It should also be a day when we stop, then think, then thank our fellow human beings."

This day begins the season for giving thanks. It continues with Christmas cards and gifts, and with the resolution to be more grateful in the new year. In the spirit of this season, I thank:

-- Writers like George Sheehan whose words I quote (with credit) when they speak better than I can.

-- Other friends who forgive me for avoiding them when I run and write as a hermit.

-- Family members who never ask, "Why don't you go to an office during the week and stay home on weekends like other men your age?"

-- Parents and siblings who never pushed me into what I do now, but have always supported these odd habits.

-- The people at Runner's World who continue to support me while hardly ever seeing me at work.

-- Subscribers who pay me the ultimate compliment of paying to read my pages.

-- Readers who generally don't exaggerate either their praise and criticism of the writing.

-- Letter-writers who get slow or no replies, even though I do read every letter when it arrives and intend to answer it "someday."

-- Hosts who make me feel at home when I'm away from home twice each month.

-- Experts who keep coming up with new advice to write about and to try.

-- "Name" runners who still have the power to excite me with their speed, long after mine has vanished.

Finally I give thanks that running remains as enjoyable this year as it was in 1958, my first.

UPDATE. I'm most thankful for family, which has grown in the six years since this column first appeared. Within weeks of its writing I met my wife-to-be, Barbara. We've added three children-in-law and two grandchildren since 2001.


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