I used to run a lot. Here in the Bay Area there are numerous trails for running. Two of my favorites are San Antonio County Park and the Shoreline Nature Preserve. But that isn’t the end of it. I ran in Missoula, Montana, Los Angeles, Chicago (where the air was so cold it was burning my esophagus and I had to stop), in Corpus Christi, Texas, in Memphis, Tennessee, Miami Beach, Florida (too humid), New York (in Central Park and out on Long Island). But my best running memories took place in Washington, D.C. There you could run the mall from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial (so much history) and then head down to the path along the Potomac where you could run forever.
But my favorite run (in WDC) was in May when the cherry trees were blooming. The sun was trying to grab you but you were shielded by a gauze of cherry blossoms and white flowers so aromatic it gave you a high. Enchanting.
On this same run our path coincided with the path of some Marine Corps recruits who were jogging a marathon, or close to it for physical training. The sergeant in charge poked us with his baton and commanded, “Keep up the pace.” Him thinking we were marines since we were all dressed alike. We finished the run with the marines.
Once, running in New York, we came across a small youngish family by the side of the road, begging. He was wearing a suit in great disrepair. She was wearing a flowered dress and you could see she took great pains to make herself presentable though in a money-free zone. The two kids were cute as buttons.
I really hated to break my stride. And I went through the mental confabulation I usually go through in these circumstances. Is it really right to give money to beggars? What if they’re going to shoot up heroin or drink white lightning. Some would say, “Why don’t they go out and get a job? ”But, it comes down to this. When I was down at the bottom of a dark pit, facing the terrors of despair and hopelessness, someone with a kind hand helped me turn my life around.
So, I dug deep and came up with forty bucks and continued my run.
About five years later I appeared for a job interview. It was a job I really wanted and needed. I sat down and looked across the table at someone I didn’t know. But he knew me. Cecil Harvey, the beggar.
About Ralph Rapp: Santa Clara has been my home for over twenty years. I participate in the Read Santa Clara program and I am enrolled in the Creative Writing class in Santa Clara Adult Ed. Out of college I was employed as an aeronautical engineer, followed by various pursuits, as circumstances dictated. My main interests these days are reading, writing, and maintaining our household.