Justin didn’t know before writing this blog that he was going to win the positivity award today. Justin just wanted to share his story in his engineer-style creative writing. If you don’t already know, Justin is one of those guys that does nothing half-ass and nothing without a smile. He organizes runs and meet-ups outside of NP workouts, he is cheerful, he is intentional, and he is an all-around solid guy and a true representation of what November Project Baltimore is. We love him. We gave him the positivity award this morning because of it. This is his story:
While rummaging through my wallet yesterday, I discovered a folded post-it note nestled behind my insurance card. Written on this tattered slip of paper are three words: “Security, Novelty and Meaning.” This was given to me by my mother at my college graduation in 2009. Most of the specific events of that day escape my memory except for when my mother handed me this note. “I want to give you something before the euphoria of finishing college fades and the unavoidable dread of facing the real world hits you,” she says as she hands me a crisp note. “I will always be available to give you life advice, but for now I just want you to remember these three words. If you pursue these values, I am certain you will live a fulfilling life.” It would take me years to figure out what she meant, but that conversation sticks with me to this day.
Fast forward to that September afternoon: While contemplating the contents of this note, I come to the realization that November Project exemplifies these values in multiple ways.
Security: in my mind, it’s pretty straightforward: it relates to basic survival. People need financial security, a safe place to live, peace of mind within a community. The difficulty of feeling secure around a group of complete strangers is a common concept for those who first arrive in a city or an organization. For this, NP provides something rather unique: when you first arrive, you are inundated with sweaty hugs and positive encouragement. Regardless of your status in life, November Project welcomes all and provides everyone the opportunity to be themselves, to let go of all of life’s stresses and to be comfortable in their own skin.
Next on this list is novelty: the ability to enjoy life. You don’t have to look far to notice the immense positivity, laughter and comradery emanating from Rash Field every Wednesday (and from Patterson Park every Friday). For many of us, NP stretches beyond the Weds/Friday workouts, as many of us will frequent happy hours and farmer’s markets throughout Baltimore. People make plans to attend Orioles games, out of town concerts, and run races together. It doesn’t take much effort to find folks in November Project who know how to enjoy life.
Finally and most importantly is a word that bears the most weight and is incredibly difficult to even define: “Meaning.” How does one lead a meaningful life? What is the meaning of life? What does this all mean?!?!?! Humankind has been asking these questions for centuries. I’ve also struggled with this term for years until about April 2015 when I met a few kooky individuals who love early morning workouts and sweaty hugs. It didn’t take long to realize that these kooky individuals lead such meaningful lives and give so much more meaning to others. These are just some examples of meaningful acts I’ve witnessed:
- someone running 365 straight days through injury for charity. All while remaining positive the entire time
- someone putting so much effort into organizing charity events and raising capital for organ donors that she even designed the award medals!
- a restaurant owner so grateful for NP’s loyalty that a happy hour was thrown on its behalf
- people who are active in Back on My Feet, an organization that encourages those who have fallen on hard times through exercise and healthy living
- people wishing literally everyone they encounter “good morning” while on a long run
- residents of a local tent city providing words of encouragement for NP folks on a long run
- introduction to an athlete from Athlete’s Serving Athletes to “the bounce” and witnessing the absolute elation on his face
- those who have lived for months overseas in impoverished nations providing aid to their residents
I can go on for an eternity with this list and still not scratch the surface of what the people I have met in the past four months have done. Wherever life takes me, I know that whenever I glance at that slip of paper, it will forever remind me of a special group of people. These people put community ahead of the individual, encourage those going through rough times, congratulate others on their achievements, give unconditionally to those less fortunate and for those with special needs, and most importantly, they possess an unfathomable capacity to love one another. These people are November Project.