By Edward Noga
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – We all have had many occasions in various settings when someone has said to us, “Oh, I can walk you through this.”
As pastor for 35 years at St. Patrick’s on the south side of Youngstown, I could recite the litany of times when our parish secretary would “walk me through” something.
In fact, truth be told, even though I have been retired well over two years, there are still the occasional phone calls where she says, “OK, I’ll walk you through this.”
The other day, I was listening to the radio while driving. The host reminded listeners that we can listen “anywhere and all the time” on various smart devices, courtesy of the station’s technology capabilities. The announcer went on to say, “We can walk you through this.”
As I continued driving, I started thinking about the many community awareness walks, fun runs, mini-marathons and full marathons that occur all over to raise money and awareness of the realities we face as human beings.
Dedicated individuals and nonprofit organizations spend countless hours putting together these events as a way of lifting up the networks that support individuals and families at various times.
They certainly are very positive applications of the phrase “We can walk you through this.” Indeed, it’s more like: “We can walk with you through this.”
Here are just a few examples:
• The Run Away from Drugs 5K race will be held May 13 in East Liverpool.
• The Tri-County Heart Walk will take place May 21 in Wean Park in downtown Youngstown.
• On June 4, the Autism Society of the Mahoning Valley will hold the Autism Family Walk & Special Needs Resource Fair at the Canfield Fairgrounds.
• The Panerathon, which supports the Joannie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center, will fill downtown Youngstown streets Aug. 28.
• On Sept. 17, The Out of the Darkness community walk of remembrance, hope and support regarding suicide and mental health will be hosted at the Riverfront Amphitheater in New Castle, Pa. This event is part of the national effort of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
• On Oct. 2, the Ashtabula Heart Walk will take place.
• On Oct. 9, the 48th annual Youngstown Peace Race will again wind its way through Mill Creek Park, attracting international runners to promote world peace.
• And on Oct. 23, the Youngstown Marathon will take runners through Mill Creek Park, downtown and on to Youngstown State University.
Happily, the above examples are the very tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to such community events.
Whatever the events and wherever they take place, it’s always encouraging to approach the site on the scheduled day and see the excitement and energy and colorfully decorated event area that welcomes those who give their time and money for the cause.
To be clear, such walks and races form part of a support network for survivors of illness or diseases or for families who have lost loved ones.
Sometimes the event clearly raises awareness and alerts people to resources for social maladies such as depression or suicide. Whatever the cause or whoever the sponsors, it is always encouraging to hear an event spokesman share the importance of being a supportive individual and supportive community as we human beings make our way through life.
There are many among us who, in their own ways, ask us to “walk them through” what they are going through.
We all know that there are many human issues that can push us into a place where we think we are all alone. The ever-emerging concern of people to walk with each other through trials and tribulations, through successes and failures, is a human quality and bond that is limitless in its power of creating new possibilities. Certainly, there are many unscheduled and unsponsored ways we walk with someone one-on-one with a listening ear or an encouraging word.
In addition, such events are often used to celebrate community successes or community or national holidays. These celebratory gatherings remind us that we are social by nature and we need to see and interact with each other. A “fun run” or community picnic can be just what we need to perk us up.
How about this? Ever been involved in an event like the ones described in this column when you have met someone or a small group that shares your concern and passion?
Total strangers in the beginning become friends on the journey. By walk’s end, you almost feel like you have known the person(s) all your life. The power of common concerns and goals is limitless.
The strength of our communities comes from the strength of our citizens. Whether we gather to celebrate or mourn, whether we gather to lift up successes or lament failures, whether we gather to celebrate a national holiday or community accomplishment, we make the human condition better when we bond together.