As you may have heard, Michelle and I are closing Crozet Running on September 30. This is the end of seven life-changing years for us serving this community.
Closing a business is hard and emotional, and I suppose you could ask if we are bitter or upset. You might think that we may want to blame politicians. Damn you, President Trump! Damn you, Progressives! Or you might think that we may want to blame our fellow citizens. Damn you, people shopping online! Damn you, protesters! Damn you, anti-maskers!
Well, we aren’t blaming anyone and we aren’t bitter. As we receive an outpouring of love and support and are processing the past seven years, we are filled with gratitude and, believe it or not, hope.
Starting and operating Crozet Running taught us many lessons that give us what we think should not be a unique perspective on this community, and this country of ours. I would like to share a few of these lessons because these are the things that I think we as a community need to focus on as we move forward in a world of unrest.
Interact with people, in person, and get to know them.
How much of our country’s problems right now stem from social media? How much of the negativity brewing today is directly related to making statements and having opinions about people that we are not directly in front of and talking with? Since I was a teenager, I have been working in jobs serving the public. From waiting tables, to my job as a veterinarian, to our operation of Crozet Running, I’ve had 30 years of working with “whoever walks in the door.” My summary of this experience is that, generally, people are amazing. True, there are a lot of people who do not think or act like you do (hard to believe, isn’t it?). But when you take the time to interact with them, listen to them and get to know them, you start to see the beauty of humankind.
Countless times over the years, people have walked into the shop whom perhaps I would instantly judge as not having the same value set that I do and likely being someone I wouldn’t get along with. Maybe it was the way they dressed, maybe it was their body language, or maybe it was what was pouring out of their mouth. Or maybe they were acting like an honest-to-goodness a$#hole. The bad version of me would label them and wish that they would just leave. But the better version of myself knows that every person has a story, and by showing them respect and interest, I can almost always find something to connect with.
Maybe it starts with asking them where they are from, or if they have kids. Perhaps it’s just a lame comment about the weather. Or maybe it is just some sustained respect and eye contact that they don’t often get from other people. But, finally, they shed a little of their hard, outer shell and we start to connect in some little way. This human connection we make, regardless of how small, is meaningful. I argue that these small connections that we can make with people who are not like us foster respect and allow us to look at our problems in a much different manner.
Focus on local.
When I was a kid, I really wanted to be a rockstar. Specifically, Eddie Van Halen. With our cultural worship of celebrities, there is a notion that you need to be famous to be special. I argue that this notion has actually diminished how we view the importance of what we are doing in our local community.
Look at our unrest. The overwhelming majority of what gets us so worked up and unhappy is stuff taking place hundreds or thousands of miles away. Will we spend our entire life being upset about something happening so far away and neglecting what we could be adding to the place where our feet are planted?
When we opened the store, we had a humble goal to serve our local community and share something that we are passionate about. No, opening a running store wasn’t curing poverty or hunger, but it was a tangible way that we could make an impact by encouraging people to be active and set new horizons for what they think they can achieve. Since we announced our closing, the outpouring we have received from those we helped over the years has confirmed that we actually made a difference in people’s lives. We’re no Eddie Van Halen. We didn’t pay off anyone’s mortgage or fix their marriage. We simply added something positive. We all have things we are passionate about, and we can all add something positive to our community. When people focus on that, you see that real heroes are not celebrities, but neighbors helping neighbors.
Also, the act of giving and serving brings great joy and satisfaction. If your happiness depends on who is in the White House, may I suggest that you reconsider this source of joy or angst and replace it with a heavy turn into your community.
I have written often about the importance of staying physically active. It is part of our human nature and vital to our mental health and function. If I have a favorite type of person who came into the shop over the years, it is the active older people. Folks who are running in their 70s and walking and hiking into their 90s. These people seem to have a different vitality to them and able to conquer the pressures that we younger people sometimes wither under.
When I am training for a race, I often ask myself how many more early mornings or hard miles I have in me before I get tired of it all. I believe these folks who are still moving in their late years have asked themselves those same questions, but always answered, “more.”
It is the journey that defines us. May we be blessed with difficult journeys, for they make us unbreakable.
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Michelle and I thank you all for giving us seven years of friendship and support. While we are sad to close, we are excited to have more time for the relationships that we started through the store. We are staying in Crozet and will continue to work to make this community a really good place. We hope you join us in that mission.
Now I’m gonna go listen to Never Say Goodbye by Bon Jovi on repeat.