Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back in Norfolk: the Homeless make the Best Fan Base

On a side note, I started this on 8/14. Now, 11 days later, it feels like NO time has past, even though it is been 1.5 weeks.

Monday 8/13 was the first day of class. I got up for a brutal morning run in the heat and humidity of the Virginia beach, with the humidity so thick in the air I think I can see it. A little more than half a mile into my run though I remembered what I missed so much about Norfolk: the homeless people cheering me on when I run. It is the greatest thing ever. I was running past a church garden and in general homeless people get kicked out of the church shelters at ~6 or definitely by 7am at which point they tend to sit at nearby parks. They looked up at me and smiled, so I made a pumping movement with my fist and they started cheering me on. When I came back by a miserable & difficult 6 miles later, the group had grown, and they all turned around and started cheering again, as though they had been waiting for me. This is not the first time I have gotten cheered on by homeless (or apparently homeless) people.

Whenever I run, I pretend that the world is cheering me on. Even if people look down and away, avoiding eye contact. In MY head, they are saying "go get 'em killer". Only in Norfolk is it actually true that the random people ARE cheering me on! Norfolk also has a high density of military population with the Naval Base and Navy Seals here, so the homed population tends to really value fitness. My favorite was when once last semester ~6.2 miles into a 7/5 mile run, a ~70 year old man with the appearance of a military-for-lifer pulled over his car with a Marine Corps sticker on the back as he drove and started cheering me loudly. Apparently he had seen me running ~2 miles earlier and thought that I could run like a cheetah. The combination of military and homeless/underserved population creates a very unique running support system. And that this group of impressive & struggling individuals are inspired by me really compels me to try my hardest... My consistency actually seems to be something positive in other people's lives! It made a group of homeless men stand up and cheer at 7:30 in the morning!

I wanted to go to medical school here because it is a community where the students can make a real difference due to the high HIV/AIDS rate and the high poverty rate. EVMS is also ranked as one of the top community-oriented medical schools, where helping the community is labeled as the top priority (I can go to medical school and become a better person instead of a more self-absorbed jerk!) Unfortunately, I haven't yet done much in terms of direct volunteer service as I have had to work so hard in classes.Last semester I was able to take a weekend class in doing rapid HIV testing and also work a couple nights in a homeless shelter. But that is really inadequate relative to what I could do to help the community. People find my running inspiring, but what made me best at running was spending time in a hospital with people who can't run. So I am in awe of my classmates who find the time to volunteer and truly build the community much more inspiring than myself. They show me how much farther I have to grow. Once I'm not struggling in class I'd really like to work with a run with the homeless program as the consistency can have really positive effects in people's lives like this one:

As one of my mentors said, we are all just a few bits of luck away from being homeless ourselves. I got lucky a lot in life. I really hope I can do more to support the best fan base I have ever had.

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