My hometown has had a tough time over the last year. Summer isn’t even here yet and we’ve already had a major brawl in a public park that left one young man dead. There have been multiple pedestrian deaths, shootings, and overdoses. In recent months we’ve become deeply divided by a vote over a proposed casino. This past Friday, 170 teachers were laid off—that’s right one hundred seventy. If Brockton were a person, she’d need a hug and a double shot of whiskey.
I’ve lived here my whole life and I’m no stranger to strings of bad news like this. Poverty and crime are a daily struggle for many in Brockton. But there are always moments—moments that stick in my head and make me think maybe this place isn’t so bad after all. I witnessed a moment like that today.
Every Saturday in the Spring and Fall there are kid’s road races at the local park. It’s a volunteer-run program. More than 100 kids show up every week, pay a dollar, and run. It’s a 2.2 mile loop through a wooded park. A lot of parents run with their kids (I do, but I get left in the dust—I am NOT faster than a 5th grader). For those that don’t, there is a path through the woods that leads to the 1/2 way point in the race. You can cheer your kids as they start the race, cheer them half way through, and get back to the finish line so you can see them cross. I love the kid’s road races. It’s outdoors, low-tech, lots of fun, inexpensive, and run by people who really care—just what a town like Brockton needs more of.
I was running with my older son Owen this morning. James and his dad were way ahead of us. We had passed the half-way point when a boy in near us stumbled and fell. He landed hard, face down. Owen and I, and a couple of other adults and I checked on him. There was a nasty abrasion on his knee and blood trickled down his leg. One women offered to walk him back to the parking lot through the short cut. But he shook his head and said he wanted to finish the race. He started jogging really slowly—obviously in pain and holding back tears. Periodically I looked back to check on him. Sometimes he was walking, sometimes he was jogging, but he never stopped.
He met up with his brother and they crossed the finish line together shortly after Owen and I did. The concern on his parents’ faces was obvious. I went over to them and told them how brave he was—how he got right back up, determined to finish the race. The concern on his dad’s face turned to pride and he said to me, “He’s very strong.”
That little boy is Brockton. Bruised and bleeding, but strong enough to keep going.