Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Running for a Cause: Lisa Smith-Batchen's Journey Across America (Part 2)
"Say something." The cameraman did one last sound check before he started recording. Lisa had never had so much media attention in her life. It seemed as if nowadays someone was always sticking a camera in her face. First, there was the Good Morning America show, and she was still scheduled to appear on CNN and plenty other news programs throughout the country, not to mention all the people who came out with their own camera equipment, wanting to get a picture with the woman running through America. Lisa looked around her. The cool light of the early morning augmented the feeling of unreality. The world seemed calm and tranquil, but her soul burned with such passion and excitement. She stood at the precipice, the beginning of something big.
Was she really standing here in Morristown, New Jersey, talking to the camera? Were all these people here to see her? Home was over 2,500 miles away now. The thought made her shiver slightly. She stuck her gloved hands in her jacket pockets.
"Why are you doing this," the interviewer asked her.
For a second, she was at a loss for words. Lisa couldn't process fast enough all the things she was feeling. She glanced over at Sister Mary Beth, dressed in her full black habit. She was busy talking with a group of people who had shown up to run. Part of the order of the Religious Teachers Filipini, Sister Mary Beth had to wear her black wool tunic and headpiece at all times, even while running. Lisa noted her friend's blue Pearl Izumi running shoes. The Running Nun. Lisa smiled to herself: it felt so good to know that Sister Mary Beth was with her, supporting her wholeheartedly. It filled her with resolve.
"I'm running for orphans all over the world," she told the interviewer.
Sister Mary Beth taught Lisa the incomparable joy of running for a purpose, running for a something besides personal gratification. Helping others became the motivating force behind her athletic endeavors; indeed, it was the driving philosophy of her daily life. People run for many different reasons. Some people run to lose weight. Others run for peace of mind. Lisa ran to help the less fortunate. All the money raised during this project would go to two charities: AIDS Orphans Rising and the Caring House Project. Her focus was on helping children.
Lisa thought of her own two daughters. Little Annabella and Gabriella. She imagined them asleep in bed right now. Soon they would be waking up to go to school. She wanted more than anything to be there to kiss them when they woke. It had crossed her mind to bring them along, but she felt it was important to maintain a stable atmosphere for them; her and her husband, Jay, had talked about it. They decided it was best not to disrupt their daughters' lives during this project any more than what was absolutely necessary.
In truth, she was also running with them in mind. When she envisioned their beautiful faces, she couldn't help but think of the thousands of children out there with no home and no one to look after them, no one to hold them when they got scared, no one to tell them how wonderful they are and how much they are loved. No one who cared. But, Lisa did care. She aimed to provide these children with food, clothing, shelter and educational opportunities. To give hope. This was her mission, pure and simple, deep and true.
It wouldn't be easy; she knew that much. It would be painful as hell.
One million dollars. That's how much money she wanted to raise. It was an ambitious goal, to be sure. Several people told her it couldn't be done. But, she had faith. She had thought about it long and hard. Some nights, months earlier, while her husband and kids slept soundly, Lisa tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep. She kept turning the number over and over in her mind, feeling its contours like a stone in hand. Heavy. Solid. Smooth. One million dollars. It seemed so possible. Her logic was this: if she got the word out about her project to a million people, and each of those people gave just one dollar, she would reach her goal. Pretty simple. One dollar didn't seem like such an impossible thing to expect of people.
Lisa finished the interview and went to join her crew. Mike, Mary Ann, and Ashley were setting up supplies by the camper. It was time to start running. Everyone huddled around for a group prayer. Sister Mary Beth took her place next to Lisa. Everyone who showed up to run came together and stood silent. Gathered in a circle, they all bowed their heads and offered up their petitions. Family, friends, and even complete strangers united, hand-in-hand, on that chilly morning in Morristown. It was April 19, 2010. The sun was peaking over the horizon. It promised to be a beautiful day. With one last look around at all the new and familiar faces of the people who were making her dream come true, Lisa took the first step of her journey...
This article is part of a series that will be published on a monthly basis. Stay tuned for more of Lisa's incredible story! Click here if you missed Part 1 of Lisa's story and here for Part 3.