A year ago today, my parents stood in the driveway with tears in their eyes as their son packed an ailing car that was headed for the east coast and the start of a 9 month journey that contained countless unknowns. With a final embrace from my father, he told me that him and mom were “with” me. I held my composure until I reached the perimeter highway on the outskirts of Winnipeg, where I began to sob, wondering if this dream I had to run across the country was a little far fetched. No grants, no sponsorships, a support team of only one in an amazing friend, increasing personal debt and an old RV that we weren’t even sure would make it to Newfoundland. There was no ‘resource package’ for running across this country. It was a leap of faith fueled by strong convictions about the time we spend outside and a determination to fulfill a dream that had made its way onto my New Year’s list for years and years.
My parents were a constant support throughout the run and I always felt them with me. But a funny thing happened along the way. I started to feel other people with me. Classroom teachers, students, friends, parents, outdoor educators, mechanics, grocery store cashiers… so many latched onto this message and joined in engaging youth in the conversation of the time we spend in front of screens balanced with the time we spend outside. While I still had to physically run a marathon on my own every day, I started to feel like I was being carried – that those who grew with me on this journey knew it wasn’t about some guy running across Canada, but that something greater was at work. On October 25 as I dipped my toe into the Pacific after 7600 kilometres, I felt thousands and thousands of people with me. For that, I am so grateful.
As I look to the year ahead, apart from the top ten lists, we are inundated with things we should or shouldn’t be doing, with causes we should or shouldn’t be supporting among many other lists of how to effectively lead our lives. It can become overwhelming to think about which ocean creatures should top my list for saving (or is it the ocean itself?), which war-torn countries most need my financial help, what local bylaw needs tackling, which petition forms I should sign and what vegetables will most likely reduce my chances of cancer. So please forgive me for adding one more to the list. But when health professionals are saying that this current generation of youth will be the first to not outlive their parent’s generation, which disturbingly counters the whole notion of “progress”, then I think it’s an issue worth adding to our lists. Let’s enjoy the wonders of the world wide web, all of our “i” devices and this forming cloud that is revolutionizing our digital age. But let us also enjoy long walks, skis, bike rides, hikes or paddles under real clouds – the ones that are part of the cycle we rely on to survive. Most of us are so privileged to have backyards in our homes across this country. Canada offers us a pretty incredible one as well. Let’s go outside and enjoy it.