It wasn’t a big deal, my daughter missing her doctor’s appointment. Not life or death. But she missed it because of all the roadblocks for an annual walk to raise money to fight a dread disease. And we simply couldn’t get close enough to the office fast enough.
Actually, it was a big deal.
We scheduled her appointment months earlier, failing to check into the schedule of walks, runs, and rides that would pass through our very small town. We still had to pay, and reschedule, months in the future.
Just the other day, the driver of a balloon-festooned follow car yelled at me, “Be safe! You’re too close to the runners!” I was driving kids to school. To be farther away, I’d have had to cross into the other lane of traffic.
That was just what happened not far from here, when a bike race for another cure caused a car accident. No one was badly hurt, but one car was totaled, another’s front end smashed, and a biker’s arm broken. The racer is suing.
Now, no one denies the glorious impulse to band together for the common good. Much of the time, if you scratch any of the bike riders decked out like the Italian Olympic team – who’s making me mad by throwing empty water bottles on my lawn — you’ll find someone who cares. Those walkers may have a daughter, a sister, a wife who battles MS or beat breast cancer.
I’m no road hog who thinks motor vehicles own the street. But as these well-meant events get bigger and bigger and more frequent (last weekend there were three in a five-mile radius) they interfere, often rudely, sometimes dangerously, with the very life they’re fighting for.
And I also know that not all those ferocious competitors are in it for the cure.
Some want a good excuse to practice the X-treme sport they love, and for which they’ve bought thousands of dollars worth of equipment. For some people, who aren’t jocks, it’s a reunion with old friends.
Nothing wrong with any of that. The money raised really helps. But organizing those events costs a ton of money too.
It would help just as surely if you gave directly to Women Against MS, with a flick of your finger to their website. It would really help if you volunteered to drive a wheelchair-bound MS patient to clinic appointments.
You don’t get people standing along the road cheering for you for that. You don’t get the tee shirt.
But it is, in its quietness, an even truer way to help.
It also doesn’t wreak as much havoc as these huge and endless walks and rides do – in small towns like mine, and in big cities. The most recent wasn’t even in support of a cause: it was commemorating the role of a famous teacher in history.
When the circus moves on, the elephant dung remains.
And that’s true of the 5K for Whatever, too. The roads are littered with Solo cups and empty water bottles; the rain shreds the posters. The organizers are supposed to tidy up; but they don’t. They’ve done their good.
Do I sound like a curmudgeon? I don’t think I am. My best friend has MS, and I’ve gone to 47 states to fund-raise for that fight. I walk the walk, even if I don’t walk the Walk with a capital ‘W.” I actually believe more people ought to try another way, one that brings them up close with whatever they’re trying to erase – from Alzheimer’s to animal cruelty.
So, walk thirty miles with a group of pals. Do it every year.
Race across three-states on a bike race. Fight to win.
But as the old commercials say, just do it. And if you have to do it on the street where I live, don’t yell at me if I go on living my ordinary life there, too. Not everybody races for a cure.