This is not the column I really want to write.
The column I want to write will be written with church bells pealing, and the lead will
be an announcement that cancer is over, the cure has been found and, henceforth, no more
mothers, brothers, sisters and sons will be stolen by that killer. The column I want to
write will be a celebration.
This column will be a report to my investors, written not with church bells pealing,
but with feet up, callused, blistered and tender to the touch. As some of you know, last
weekend, I walked in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day For The Cure, a 60-mile hike to raise money
against breast cancer. Powered by 514 investors in that cause -- i.e., incredibly generous
readers -- I managed to raise over $28,000. And yes, I walked every single one of those 60
miles, roughly the equivalent of walking from Miami to Boynton Beach, Houston to
Galveston, Toledo to Detroit.
So here is my report: We started out early Friday from Nationals Park in Washington,
D.C., with the sound of Walking On Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves blasting into the
chill morning air. We ended up Sunday afternoon, a sea of pink and white, marching,
walking, limping, 10 abreast down Northwest 15th Street onto the grounds of the Washington
Monument through a thunder of cheers.
In between there was: line dancing at a major intersection; men in pink tutus serving
as crossing guards; gallons of Gatorade; miles of gauze; hills that went up forever; a
little girl offering M&Ms to walkers passing by; a woman with the cropped hair of the
chemo patient, holding up a sign that said, You're Walking For Me.
And there was: the grandeur of the U.S. Capitol building shortly after dawn, the
serenity of a suburban lake, bridges and railroad tracks, buckled sidewalks and shading
trees and the visceral jolt of passing by some dispossessed family's things falling apart
out on the curb, bedding and books and a forlorn teddy bear that had lost its child.
And there was: the encouragement from strangers greeting you with high fives and cars
tooting their horns, and attaboys from little kids and adrenaline sipped from the words
and rhythms of pop songs -- Motown, the Beatles, Frankie Beverly and Maze singing, "I'm so
happy to see you and me back in stride again," Edwin Starr shouting, "I got to keep on
walkin'!'' and the theme from Rocky pushing us up another godforsaken hill.
And there was: steak for dinner, portable johns, shower trucks, thank God for whoever
invented the massage chair, quiet talking with new friends whose names you don't know,
huddling under covers in your tent, cold, aching, satisfied.
You know, we are sometimes afflicted with inertia, a tendency to regard certain
challenges as too big, certain problems as too intractable. A fondness for the helpless
That we have no reason to be so cowed, so bereft of imagination and respectful of
limitation, is as obvious as footprints on the moon, or children who've never heard of
polio, or the black man in the Oval Office. Yet for all the miracles to which we have
borne witness, we still sometimes allow inertia to hold us.
The 3-Day was the opposite of inertia. Sitting in camp, watching people swarm about --
crew members serving meals, handing out towels, cheering stragglers, walkers hobbling
about seeking food or gauze or a cellphone charger -- I thought of ants. Ants don't know
from inertia. They have a goal: to build and expand their underground cities. And they do
achieve this by working cooperatively, moving earth one grain at a time.
Last weekend, some of us moved grains of earth toward our goal: a cancer-free world.
And it occurs to me that when I finally get to write the column I want to write, it
will not need to be overly long. Indeed, I'll be able to look back to these three days and
say what needs saying in just that many words:
We did it.