Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Madeline's Heaven

“I am like a falling star who has finally found her place next to another in a lovely constellation, where we all sparkle in the heavens forever.” Amy Tan

I just returned from a beautiful experience with our Girls on the Run Council in Atlanta. Saturday night, Sue Payne and her crew put on a fabulous event to thank board members and to spread the word about the program. On Sunday morning, 1100 runners, girls in our program, parents, caregivers and running buddies showed up to participate in the Girls on the Run 5k. The Atlanta Youth Soccer Association, New Balance (thank you Matt) and Goody’s Hair Accessories (thank you Jana and Jennifer) were all present to support our efforts!

At the awards presentation I stood on the stage and tried to soak it all in…to be completely and wholly present. The sea of orange Girls on the Run t-shirts, the smiling faces, the sweat and wonder at what had just been accomplished seemed to go on forever. Really…as I’ve shared before I simply can’t fully comprehend how “big” this program has grown.

But I do get some level of understanding when I really focus on how all this makes me feel. I remember when I was a kid, hanging out at the park. I used to love to walk onto one end of a see saw and gently make my way across the wooden plank toward the other end. Slowly I would proceed across the wood…smaller steps as I approached the middle. At some point (and I can actually feel it now as I write to you) I would feel a delicious kind of anticipation, wondering when the plank would move from one end being on the ground to the other end being on the ground. The tipping point was never quite known, but it was always certain to come.

As I wake up each morning and “google” Girls on the Run and cruise through the various news stories and blog entries about our program I feel as if I’m approaching the fulcrum of the see saw…the tipping point for our program is slowly approaching. The word is out. . .the girls, the coaches, the women and men attracted to Girls on the Run are each steadily walking toward the middle of that board with me. It’s easy to lose sight of "the girl" in all of that. The girl in me, in you, in each other...

I remember vividly, in the late fall of that first season in 1996, I was wrapping up with my Girls on the Run girls at Charlotte Country Day School.

The weather all day was unsure--in a constant state of changing its mind--would it be rainy, cloudy, cold, warm, thundering, or sunny? Our attempt to do the final lesson was in question right up until the 3:30 hour when I met the girls. We stood in our circle of friendship together and all said one word about our Girls on the Run experience. I've heard them all by now..."Awesome, Real, Cool, Fun, Running, Love."

As we walked to the track, I felt as if I was peering through an emotional kaleidoscope…one turn to the right and I felt joy. A small turn to the left and I felt sorrow. This was, after all, our last day together.

The girls began to run. The clouds were building, a thunderstorm was rumbling hundreds of miles away. Rolling, building, powerful. Madeline was the smallest girl in Girls on the Run. At some point during the workout portion of the lesson, Madeline came to me, her tiny hands cupped around the corners of her mouth. She whispered, "Molly, come here. I have something I have to show you. I must show you. Please."

I was busy handing out game pieces and cheering for each girl as she ran by me. "Sorry Madeline, but I really need to stand here and cheer on each girl."

"But Molly you have to see this." She continued to cup her mouth with hands on either side and whispered, "I think I see Heaven."

Well, that’s certainly interesting, I thought. If Madeline sees heaven surely I must see it too. So we each grabbed the hand of the other and ran as fast as we could to the far end of the track. "Look!" she said. "Look. I see Heaven." I turned to my right and was struck speechless by what appeared before me. Dark black clouds surrounded a brilliant white light…. like the blade of a silver knife this light pierced the sky and sent beams of itself down on the earth miles and miles away. "See," she said, completely convinced. "Heaven!"

I was reminded of the heaven I saw sixteen and a half years ago, on that run of July 7th, 1993. When only the day before I had considered my end—to run the following afternoon amidst the power of an approaching thunderstorm. To, at mile five of that six mile run, see, feel and know the brilliance of my own potential followed by the desire to seek moments of similar power as often as I could from there on out.

"Madeline," I said. "Yes. Heaven, surely." But I didn't need to look to the sky. I didn't need to look to some distant space in time. I only had to look at the two small, but brilliant rays of light--there in Madeline's eyes to know that indeed, heaven is right there, resting inside her little girl soul...that little girl body.

Heaven rests in me and you and the brilliance of our own lives. I am convinced, as convinced as Madeline was that she was witnessing a glimpse of heaven on a stormy day, that Girls on the Run is creating our own heaven, a place of safety where girls can feel a peace of such depth, simply being themselves.

What moments of peace have you experienced as you make your way toward living your greatest human potential?

Let me know at molly@girlsontherun.org.



  1. Molly-

    Thank you for the inspiration this evening; it is just what I needed. As i am sitting here treading through this application I needed this! The deadline is fastly approaching and I am praying that I make it. I am having some difficulty with the Needs Assessment. Is there any way I could ask you a few questions or get some advice?

    Thanks Molly, you keep me going.


  2. I think people might wonder why I cry at our Girls on the Run banquet every year. This is exactly why.