In 2010 my Father was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease. It's a progressive, degenerative, and tragically, incurable disease.
Although I'm not a runner, I decided that the best way I could honor my father was by raising money for the ALS Association, and that the best way I could raise money was by running in the New York City Marathon.
Except the year that I had planned on running the marathon, was also the year it was canceled because of the devastation from Hurricane Sandy.
I drank a few scotches with my Dad, apologized for not being able to run, and went to bed. The next day I decided I would run the marathon anyway - only I would do it in my town, and finish at a local school's track.
At about the 17th mile, my family arrived. And, of course, my dad.
People from nearby fields started to take notice. One person told two people, two people told 10 people. A fellow Pleasantville High track regular ran to nearby sporting events and told people what I was doing. As the myriad soccer games ended, kids sprinted to the track to offer high fives and encouraging words.
At mile 20, I heard the encouraging words, "You need some company?" Dirk Klingner, a former distance runner at Binghamton University, saddled up alongside me asking, "You mind if I run along with you?" We had never met. We stayed together for five miles. I was overcome by the kindness of strangers.
Some kids started running with me, screaming, 'He's running for a cure!' My brother said I was like Rocky, running through the streets of Philadelphia.
As the 26th mile approached, a referee from a nearby soccer game blew his whistle -- mid-action -- and demanded the game come to a temporary halt.
With the crowd cheering and my father waiting for me at the finish line - exhausted, I knelt down to hug my father - and we both burst into tears. Both of us were weeping. I told my father that I love him. We both cried. Before that moment I can only recall one other time when I saw my father cry.
Vulnerability works; yet most of us are afraid to remove our masks. Employing the mechanisms to protect us in fact hurt us.
Here's how to put your vulnerability into action:
- In your Friendships
When a friend is in need, show your vulnerability by reaching out to them and extending an olive branch. You will likely get back unexpected closeness and gratitude.
- At Work
Don't be afraid to ask for help; or to offer help to a colleague, or even a competitor. You will be viewed as strong, not weak.
- With your Family
Freely offer affection and show genuine emotion. Unplug from your devices, and offer your full-undivided attention. Your loved ones will never forget how special they felt in your presence.
- In your personal Relationships
Let go of the need for power and the need to be right. Instead, express love and support in your actions. Allowing yourself to trust, support and give more than you take. You will enhance your relationship beyond what you ever imagined.
Bringing it all together.
This is a lesson I want to share for you --- so you don't have to run a marathon to tell someone in your life how special they are. It was easier for me to run a marathon than to tell my father how much I was hurting watching him suffer, and to show him how much I loved him.
We've all experienced deep moments of self-doubt, times of difficulty or experienced loss like when my father eventually passed away from ALS. It's among the most relatable experiences we have as human beings, but in our public lives we pretend like we're infallible.
Let's all get better at telling our truest & most vulnerable stories, and let's love and support each other through them.