Forewarning, this post is both unrelated and very much related to running.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we, as humans, establish and maintain a sense of community. I guess this was spurred by my joining The November Project (more on that in a later post). And since then, I keep finding myself thinking about it on public buses, for example.
I feel like for the most part, runners are innately connected as a community because we all have this common passion for the act of running. Since joining NP, I feel like I’m becoming a part of a more palpable community. Just like my Nike SF coworkers or my Nike DC Run Club crew, we share a fire for fitness. But more than just that, NP is not just a 15-city, free, grassroots fitness movement where people work out together before sunrise. It opens its arms, both figuratively and literally, to establish a deeper connection.
Take, for example, this photo of our support for a fellow tribe member (borrowed from November Project San Francisco)
As I’m becoming a part of this new community where sweaty hugs are the norm, I’m realizing more and more how disconnected people are. Obviously you hear people say this all the time; that “our generation” has lost its connection because we are too entranced in the digital world of social media. Yes, it is undeniable that virtual relationships are a large chunk of the human connection problem in westernized civilizations. But this is not a problem I see with mine and the upcoming generations exclusively.
I have noticed during my time spent on public transportation in particular, that we all seem to fear human connection, no matter who we are. We don’t want to sit next to strangers or touch anyone else if we can help it. Even striking up a conversation with a new person is avoided if not necessary. If we struggle to make connections in a local sense, then what is left of the human connection that strings us together as a global community? How can we learn from one another if we can’t make the personal connections needed to build bridges?
Personally, I could use the excuse that being an introvert with some extent of social anxiety makes it harder for me to initiate a connection. That is a cop-out. Running has taught me that no matter who we are we can always relate to someone unexpected on a deeply personal level. Everyone has something that they’re passionate about. Now that I have given in to calling myself a “runner,” I realize that whatever your passion is, it can be used to string together connections with others who share that passion. Or even better, it can be used to create a new string in the web which weaves together a sense of global community. I think it’s important to remind ourselves that we are all one human community. If we can’t trouble ourselves to notice that most basic connection to people who may come from a completely different part of the world or walk of life, how can we expect anyone will carry on that understanding to a deeper connection with our planet as a whole.