Footfalls, Brick Falls, Stories Stand
By 2013-2014 Volunteers
Julie Cozzetto, a graduate of St. Mary’s College of California
And Matthew Parra, a graduate of Boston College
Back on My Feet is a program “that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness…make real change in their lives” Since 2010, BSVM volunteers have joined the Baltimore Back on My Feet running group, building relationships and community with both shelter residents as well as non-resident members. At 5:30 every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning, these Back on My Feet teams gather for a run of a few miles, improving the lives of all those in the program ‘one step at a time.’
Plastic bags dance frivolously in the wind—polyethylene angels sent by the spirit of Lord Baltimore for my sensory stimulation and subsequent dopamine-founded pleasure. I wonder what silent, city ballad they are moving to the pulse of today. I wonder if they feel the beat of the stereo system that negotiates the congestion of Fulton Street, with fervor and a serpentine certainty. I wonder if they are affected by that beat in the same way I am. Their chaotic choreography clashes with the timely vibrations of the concrete—in a manner void of any poetic intent—indicating they are rather unencumbered by the ‘forces of the surround.’
Twenty runners, arms circled around each other, stand huddled and oblivious to the swirling bags and the whipping wind. Beneath the spandex-polyester blend and sweat-wicking layers are twenty stories—twenty tales of forks in the road, misguided steps, joyful triumphs, and loving companionship. Arms wrap around shoulders as their stories collide and intertwine, inviting conversation amid the shared miles. Footfalls dispel preconceived assumptions as a harmonious cadence proves community lives beyond work meetings, college graduations, and house parties. Miles do not discriminate based on employment status, and running shoes do not care if the feet inhabiting them own a house or not. Those layers mask life journeys, begging each of us to remove the mask and discover the truth beneath.
As the circle tightens against the chill, arms, hearts, and stories hold each other close. The differences are forgotten in an embrace that celebrates our sameness—all runners, all people.
Emerging onto Mount Street and following our path to the hospital, we are compelled to believe differently. The cracks in the pavement, the abandoned homes, they try to tell us we come from somewhere else. But between the cracks you find growth-resilient organisms that reach towards the light—and if you sift through the rubble and the ash you will find stories. And though the brick that these stories once lived in continues to crumble, the stories rebuild in the stories of our neighbors—in their daily “good mornings,” in their smiles of understanding, in the tension that exists in the leash of their dog.
Sometimes what you see doesn’t wholly capture the truth. And sometimes what you see tells a lie. And sometimes I think about the grace of the plastic bags, and wish we could all be more like them; their movements radical and decided, but inseparable from the movement of the city’s unstoppable feet.
This article was originally featured in Issue 16 of the
Bon Secours Volunteer Ministry Newsletter The Companion