So, when we had people sign up for Run Big, Dream Big I, I was overwhelmed by the response of my friends from high school, most of whom I have not seen since graduation. Eleven women, from different walks of high school life, signed up after one of my oldest friends (and by oldest I mean longest) to raise money for Circle de Luz, train for a 5k, and upend their lives throughout the southeast and Connecticut to come to Charlotte for a weekend to run this race for the Circle de Luz Hijas. For a while, I couldn’t even really talk about it without crying from such gratitude and tenderness. I am so grateful to these dear, long-time friends and am not the least bit surprised that 18 years later, they are exactly the kind of women now that they were then. For the last few weeks, I have toiled over words to thank them. Below are some of the words that I finally found. I am so grateful to the twenty Run Biggers who ventured out on a chilly Saturday morning to celebrate the potential of our Circle de Luz Hijas. Together, we raised over $6,000. These words express just a sliver of my gratitude for all of them:
With all this life we have lived in thirty-five fast years, it is almost impossible to believe that we started off as girls. Girls I met in the front yard of my new house or on my first day at a new school or on your first day at a new school. Girls I got to know because we stood next to each other in chorus or because we spent afternoons at each other’s house or because we wrote letters to each other once we no longer went to school together or because we couldn’t get enough of spending the night with each other or because we dated best friends or because we bought our Esprit sweaters together or because we ate meals together, traveled together, cheered for our team together.
You women played every game imaginable with me, picked me up after break-ups, laughed with me in the classroom, drove me to school, swapped clothes with me. I always had an embarrassment of riches when it came to women that I called friends, women that I loved and who were willing to love me, and women who allowed me into their worlds so that I knew more about the world in general.
In many ways, the world became open to me because you were open to me, and, in turn, I learned to be open because of each one of you. You are the women in this world who taught me how to be a friend, taught me how to care, taught me how to focus on something other than myself. You are the women who taught me what mattered and how to partner together with others to make things happen. So while each one of you being here this weekend is a humbling, wonderful gift, it is also feels just as it should be.
Throughout history, women have gathered together— in homes and churches, town squares and bodegas— to heal their communities. Galvanizing our inherent sisterhood, we bring children to life, nurture the sick or weak, and love in unrelenting measure. We change the world, despite—or perhaps because of— our understanding that the world has sometimes ostracized us. And throughout your histories- parts that I know and parts that I do not- you have loved and instigated, prodded and cajoled, championed and built. It seems no coincidence that all of you are here this weekend…
All of you know how much education matters. You know that when a young woman is educated, it not only dramatically changes her life, it also changes all of our lives. You know that suffering and disparity do not exist in a vacuum; they do not exclusively reside in the geographic place where they exist. Suffering, disparity, injustice, vulnerability know no boundaries. You understand that we are no greater than the sum of our parts. You know that we have to change the count to change the consequence.
When I look out at the circle of your faces this weekend, I will glow in the knowledge of how our first teachers are our friends and how friends well-made never really go away. They stay, in our hearts and minds and histories, and they return, time and distance no boundary. This weekend, we will toast the potential of these thirteen girls who were like us at twelve and thirteen year olds- not aware that they are special or smart or beautiful or ripe with potential. We will push back against their fears, asserting to them in our motion and action that their future is theirs for the taking. And when we do those things, we will be cherishing the girls that we were, our twelve and thirteen year old selves, while celebrating the woman that we have become. We will be honoring the union of women, perching a new generation on our shoulders, in the promise of expanding their vision and embracing our own. There aren’t words sufficient enough to tell you how grateful and humbled I am by your journey here – the physical journey you took today and the figurative journey you have taken with me for so long. There is only the bottomless love in my heart for you and the shear joy I feel in making one more memory together after so much time.
Thank you. You make my heart swell in joy and pride.