March 17, 2017

Gratitude Porn (not) and Real Appreciation

Posted in Commentary, Israel, politics, society, running tagged , , , , at 3:39 pm by degyes

I have no idea who these guys are.

Security Guys at Marathon.jpg

But they were willing to pose for a photo after I stopped to chat with them. I wanted to express my appreciation for doing their bit among the many thousands of emergency services, military, and security contractors who made today’s Jerusalem Marathon possible. Ordinarily, I feel gratitude in my heart, though I tend to hold it inward. I’ll usually try to remember to say thank-you to an individual or small group if I feel a sense of appreciation, or if it’s just the courteous thing to do. But today was a little different.

I “only” ran the 10K this year. That’s after two years of doing the half-marathon. I just got too darn busy this time around, what with “leaving” Cisco, finding new work, getting ramped up and settled into my new professional life, and all that. I simply didn’t have the time to train the way I had the past two years. I realized that, and decided I’d join the throng doing the 10K, as for me that’s more of a fun-run, not requiring a level of preparation that’s beyond my scheduling constraints. [By the way, yes, also I’m tremendously grateful for being fit and healthy, though that’s not the main thrust of this communication.]

WARNING: if you get easily ticked off and flared up reading religio-political commentary, especially where frictions in Israel society are exposed, in all their ugly hostility, please stop reading now. I don’t want to get folks’ anger buttons pressed, and expose their resentments. That’s not my aim, not my purpose, and it’s not what I’m myself feeling right now. My aim is … appreciation.

There were demonstrators at the marathon this year.

Maybe they were out there in past years, but if they were, I hadn’t noticed. This year, around kilometer 3, on King George St., I nearly tripped over one. Had that happened, I’d almost surely have gone flying. On the infrequent occasions that I fall when running, I tend to recover my balance or at least manage to go into a roll, and thus prevent serious injury. But who knows. The field was so crowded this time, and I was frankly clueless that the person blocking me was actually _trying_ to cause disruption and damage.

Honestly, my mind didn’t acknowledge that there could possibly be demonstrators intentionally blocking the path of the runners. My “תן כתף זכות” (“give the benefit of the doubt”) mechanism kicked in and registered him as a photographer, because there are actually photographers who sit, unobtrusively, along the route, snapping pictures.
So what was I to think when suddenly, I saw a police officer literally drag the demonstrator out of my path, just in the nick of time as I was about to plow into him full throttle. And a few additional cops were guarding some of this demonstrator’s buddies, whom they’d apparently managed to apprehend and pull off to the roadside, moments earlier. The demonstrators were chanting slogans, though it was hard to make out what they were shouting, as I was plugged into my running music.

Further down-route, there was another demonstrator carrying a sign. Something about the marathon being terrible for the Jews, and government policies that harm yeshiva boys. Though to be honest, I don’t know if the latter guy was connected with the first group.
To my pleasant surprise, I didn’t for a micro-second feel any sense of anger. From the get-go, my predominant emotion–really the only thing I felt about the incident–was gratitude and appreciation toward the police officer who exerted himself dragging away the demonstrator prior to my having a collision, and his colleagues who were involved in managing the situation. And also toward the other runners, who stayed focused on the race, and kept their collective cool.

That we’re living in such “interesting” times, and somehow manage to pull off a full-blown city-wide athletic event, in Jerusalem of all places, is to me nothing short of miraculous. Thank you, God, for again bringing us to this season.

May we merit the ability, the willingness, and the heart-felt desire to practice really listening to one another, acknowledging in thought, word, and deed the Essential Humanity that unites us as a Species.

Thank you, everyone.