RD Diary: One Million Revolutions

Editor's note: This is the fourth of a series of 13 weekly articles originally published on Slowtwitch in 2003. The articles chronicle newbie RD Jeff Henderson's journey toward the production of his first race: the Musselman Triathlon in Upstate New York. After these 13 weeks worth of diary entries, we'll flow directly into a new series Jeff is writing for us, where he talks about his challenges and goals now, as he prepares for Year-7 of Musselman.

"You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised."

- Gil Scott-Heron, The Revolution will not be Televised

There are shortcomings in this life of mine.

In 1999 I met Bruce Kurtz and began to learn what it means to serve others. Since then I have made small in-roads, but have not done as much as I should. The Musselman Triathlon, which I am organizing for this summer in Central New York, is a chance to give something back. But to whom, and how?

When I started to advertise the Musselman last month, I was asked by a nearby race management company which group the race would be a benefit for. I had considered this question for quite a while, but didn't have an answer. I didn't want to choose randomly; I wanted our efforts to be meaningful, relevant, and more than a name on fancy letterhead.

My first objective was to not hinder the Miracle in the Park's efforts to raise funds for hunger relief. Held for the past 22 years, the aptly-named Miracle is Geneva's triathlon mainstay and much of the local community depends on its ability to raise thousands of dollars a year for food. To undercut their efforts would be antithesis to everything I hoped to accomplish. I spoke with Reverend Jim Gerling, who spearheads the Miracle's efforts.

Jim told me that the work of his race has filled an important need in the community, but it has always somewhat frustrated him: he feels their work has been more of a band-aid solution than a precision operation to alleviate the roots of the hunger problem. I spoke to him about our committee's thoughts on finding a different charitable group in Geneva to support, to spread the work of our races to encompass more of the population in need. I told him who we had in mind, based on our committee's ideas of the night before. Jim wholeheartedly endorsed the group's mission and our desire to work on their behalf. On Friday, January 9, my wife and I made our first visit to the Boys and Girls Club of Geneva.

We walked through the door into a sea of moving children. The energy of youth was being released from a day cooped up at school, while a few concerned volunteers tried to maintain a modicum of order. We stepped into the office of John Kenny, the Executive Director. He had a smile on his face.

"I'm glad you came," he told us. He laid before us the progress that has been made in the past four years of his service.

"If you had come four years ago, you wouldn't have seen a white kid in here. Look around you now - white kids, black kids, Hispanic kids, you name it. This is the place to be.

"Last year we started a 'Power Hour' between three and four o'clock to encourage kids to do their homework. We brought in a teacher from the City School District to help us out. At first, no one would be caught dead there. So we started the incentives: a pizza party for all the kids who get their homework done every month, ice skating at the rink, bowling. Now Power Hour is the cool thing to do: 'Why weren't you there?' kids ask each other. 'What's wrong wi' choo?' On your way in you saw the line for the pizza party - there must have been 30 kids in it. That wouldn't have happened a few years ago."

Mr. Kenny guided us around the Club's facilities. He couldn't cross a room without being swarmed by children only looking to give him a hug. He knew each of them by name, knew of their study habits and knew their problems.

Like last summer, I am on the outside looking in at a world I want to be part of. I want to contribute to the pride all of Geneva feels when speaking of the Boys & Girls Club. I want to be part of the band-aid, part of the operation that will heal wounds of poverty, despair, and need. I need to turn wanting into doing. The Musselman is helping me take the first steps.