My children would tell you that one of my favorite things, other than running, is to study, share and quote the spiritual teachings of my favorite gurus; Jesus, Buddha, Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Lao Tzu, Gandhi, Mother Teresa; the list goes on. They would also probably tell you that I drive them crazy with this little hobby of mine. Personally, I think they are listening and maybe slightly enjoying it. At least that’s my hope.
One of the things I’ve learned over and over again from their writings is, no matter the religion, the message is always the same; one of love, compassion and kindness. The bible says “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The Dalai Lama says “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness”. "When you love someone, the best thing you can offer is your presence. How can you love if you are not there?" says Thich Nhat Hanh. “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” says Lao Tzu. And, “Where there is love, there is life” speaks Gandhi. Valentine’s Day is most often associated with the celebration of love and it also happens to be my sister, Jodi Ann Sims’, birthday. She would have been 39 this February 14th. But she died by suicide on July 10, 2006.
Shortly after my sister’s tragic death, I became a member of the Samaritans’ community. The mission of our small but special charity is to reduce the risk of suicide, increase public awareness of prevention strategies and help despairing individuals find emotional and often lifesaving support. Recently, we added “spreading happiness” to our mission with our “Happier Boston” campaign. Needless to say, I couldn’t have been more proud to be part of this experiment. From high fives in the 5th at Fenway Park, to handing out oranges to morning MBTA commuters and singing a cappella in busy workplace elevators, our Happier Boston volunteers are doing just that; spreading happiness. And on Valentine’s Day, this special group spent the afternoon spreading love by handing out Valentine’s Day cards to commuters at North Station.
On April 15th, I will be running the Boston Marathon on “Team Samaritans” for the 5th time in memory of my sister. My family and I represent the faces of those whose lives have been touched by suicide. Our mission, at least mine anyway, isn’t to share the sadness of Jodi’s death year after year, but to use her struggle with depression and battle with mental illness as our inspiration to spread some happiness. And what better way to do that than to share a few smiles and offer a few high fives on a 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston? Who knows, I might even hand out a few Valentines along the way.
I’ve committed to raising $5,000 for this charity whose mission inspires each of us not only to lend an ear and listen, but to be kind, practice random acts of kindness, spread some happiness; TO LOVE. If you’d like to help with my fundraising efforts, please feel free to do so online or send a check made payable to “Samaritans, Inc.” to:
Kimberly Jo Gagnon
80 Washington Street
Norwell, MA 02061
Will our efforts reduce the risk of suicide? I don’t really know; but I’m certain the Samaritans community will continue to make a lot of people smile. And in the words of Mother Teresa, “Let us always meet each other with a smile for the smile is the beginning of love”.
Mother, Marathoner, Yogi, Beloved Sister.