Growing up, my father often repeated his favorite Jackie Robinson quote to me, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” The quote actually accounted for about 90% of everything the old man said to me. I was a weak boy and he didn’t respect me. And he was the town grump.
For a long time I looked to that quote for the sole reason of gaining respect from my dad, the town grump. I was sure that if I dedicated my life to impacting others, he would respect me and I would feel fulfilled. So I studied law in college and dedicated all of my post graduate work to helping those who could not help themselves, thinking this is what my father meant when he said impacting others’ lives is important. But it turns out, by “impact people,” my dad just meant making people laugh by doing goofs. Which is why I decided to stop practicing law and run the Boston Marathon in a big silly lobster costume.
I’ll admit that this sounds strange coming from someone who I’ve called the “town grump” three times now, but, what can I say? The man loved a goof. He laughed rarely but when he laughed, it was like a hole in him opened up and emptied out all the pain and resentment that only a 40 year career in the factory business can build up. When he laughed he was truly IMPACTED. So it makes sense.
Once I realized this, my plan was simple: I’d train to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time of 3 hours and 5 minutes. Then I’d run five marathons (the number of marathons it took me to reach that time). Then I’d pay $180 to register for the BAA Boston Marathon. After that, I’d buy a big silly uncomfortable full-body felt lobster costume and get ready to finally IMPACT some lives.
You might be asking, “You trained so hard to run a marathon, you’re fast, and you get to experience the historic peak of marathoning in the running world. Why would you put a big dumb costume on that will make you extremely uncomfortable and make you look like a big dumb idiot?” My answer is simple. To make my father proud.
When I was trucking my way up Heartbreak Hill, the thick wool fibers from the lobster suit were chafing my nipples so hard that I felt like giving up. But that’s when my father’s words rang loudest. I cried out, “I’ll bleed for you dad! I’m bleeding for your respect!” as I danced around to the delight of drunk Boston-area revelers along the route. Making them laugh and thus IMPACTING lives for the first time in my life.
I could feel my father’s respect raining down on me from heaven as my nipples dripped blood as I tugged the cheap lobster suit from my chest. Drip, drip, drip, I must make a goof that will impact this city, impact this nation, impact this world!
From when I toed the starting line at Hopkington to when I swung my clumsy plastic lobster claws to ward off the infamous Wellesley College kissers (I’m happily married, thank you very much), and finally when I touched down on Boylston street and crossed the finish line, chafed and rashed through several layers of epidermis, I knew at least a few people laughed.
Did I win the first place medal? No. But I’d won something far more important: my father’s respect.