“What we play is life.”
I’ve long appreciated the double entendre of those Louis Armstrong words.
As we’re energized into what is always a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it holiday season, let’s not forget to play. Let’s make – and take – time for life’s fun, the good times that challenge and change us spiritually, mentally and physically.
It’s the stuffing of our best memories, our proudest accomplishments that extend beyond the perfectly basted turkey or the best-wrapped gifts.
Surely, traditions are important. And fun. But so, too, are the side dishes of new traditions. Last year, my family of three enjoyed a traditional Thanksgiving meal, then amped up our Christmas fare with a seafood feast, cooked up by us, for us.
Armstrong likely was talking about the myriad sounds of life cascading through his horn. Or was he?
Two of our Midtown neighbors are playing life in ways that help themselves and others.
Enjoy their stories. And remember to make your own as you travel safely, cook well, eat healthy, move yo’ body, love hard, pray harder, laugh a lot – and play a little.
‘In spite of my age’
If plans went unhitched, 68-year-old Larry Stroud spent Thanksgiving running the Skinny Turkey Half Marathon at Wakefield High School. It’s his sixth 13.1-miler this year – his 10th in all, including a full marathon Stroud finished in Disney World in 2012.
Though I’m no runner, Stroud is one of my fitness mentors. He chose running as his fitness regimen after seeing a woman for whom running was physically difficult. She was running anyway, in the rain.
Stroud soon realized running fits his fitness.
“It gives me a chance to think and meditate and realize that I can accomplish a lot of things I have not accomplished, in spite of my age,” he said.
Earlier this month, Stroud was among 22,000 runners in Virginia’s Anthem Richmond Marathon. He placed 38th in his age group, adding accomplishment to the already-completed Bull City Race Fest in Durham, Rock’n Rebellion and City of Oaks marathons in Raleigh, and Fayetteville’s Race 13.1 Series.
Surgery last year to repair a torn meniscus is merely a speed bump for Stroud, who now trains with a Galloway training group in weekly runs in the Triangle.
“I’m one of the oldest in the group, but I’m never the slowest running,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m 68. I have to remind myself.”
The thing that makes life fun for Mary Brown is helping others who can’t help or fall short of helping themselves. And, like Santa and his elves, Brown leads others along the way.
“I just get people together, we put our money together, and that is how we roll,” Brown said.
She continued: “What is it to be on this earth and never give anything? While you’re on this earth, do something for somebody else as much as you do for yourself.”
In October, two months after her backpack giveaway, Brown began planning her fifth annual Christmas Day feast for the homeless and hungry at City Market in downtown Raleigh.
The Cameron Village neighborhood Harris Teeter is donating 10 turkeys, and Margaux’s restaurant on Creedmoor Road is cooking them. Honey Baked Hams gives hams, and Red Lobster gives potatoes, biscuits and tea. There’s a donated pig, and a gifted dessert delivered by Cary’s Once in a Blue Moon Bakery.
“It’s all about giving back; that’s the whole point.” Margaux’s co-owner Andy Pettifer said, explaining why he cooks the turkeys and includes gravy and leg-meat hash.
Brown does what she does because it’s what Jesus would do, she said, rejecting notions that feeding the homeless should be banned.
“I’m going to feed them until the day I die,” said Brown, 54. “If they want to throw me in jail and be the bad guys at Christmas, that’s on them. I don’t have a problem going to jail for that, but they’ll have to wait until I feed the people, and then throw me in jail.”