Slow Money

In October, I went to San Francisco to present our business in the Entrepreneur’s Showcase at Slow Money’s National Gathering:

You can find some of the other presentations from the gathering here

I went for a run yesterday morning, my first after the hurricane. I took my normal route, along the waterfront in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, along streets that had been underwater 36 hours earlier. I stopped in at our paper supplier’s to see him jacking up pallet after pallet of ruined coffee cups, paper towels, and shopping bags, taking pictures for his insurance company, wondering how far back into the warehouse the damage had reached as there was an amazing selection of antique swords in the back. I ran past the home of one of my oldest friends and employees, who finally fled her apartment mid-storm when the water in her living room had come up to her knees. I ran to Newtown Creek, which had flooded and washed the neighborhood with some of the most toxic water in the country, but where this morning the sailboats that are always moored there were still moored there, peacefully reflected on the creek’s surface as though nothing had happened. I ran laps around the track at the park, unaware–as were the dozens of other runners taking laps–that the park was closed.

That was the last run I’ll take before the marathon this Sunday.

Over the years I’ve had flickers of interest in running the marathon. Usually they last as long as it takes me to count to 26. This year it just so happened that the flicker caught on another thought I was having about our work with Wellness in the Schools, who work to improve school food and fitness programs. I remembered that they fielded a marathon team every year.  I happened to be sitting at my computer, so I wrote to see if they had an open spot on their team. They did, they accepted me, and within 24 hours I was registered to run and desperately searching the internet for a training plan for under-prepared middle-aged knees.

It’s been a lot of work. It’s taken a lot of time and energy–both physical and mental–to prepare. Frankly, if I were doing it for myself alone, I almost certainly would have backed out weeks ago: I don’t have that much time just to devote to self-exploration. I kept going because I committed to Wellness in the Schools, because I knew that the work they did was important and my run would help bring attention to that work and the needs that it serves. I couldn’t have justified the sacrifice of time, and I wouldn’t have had the motivation to beat myself up for it, if I hadn’t known that I was doing it for a cause I believed in.

I can’t pretend that I wasn’t also excited, though. Without question, I’ve enjoyed the training, enjoyed the focused work that a goal like the marathon made possible. I’ve never felt more capable of rising to challenge and persisting through discomfort than I do now. Running long distance has changed me, as it does everyone who gets up off the sofa one day and decides to do it.

We’ve suffered an enormous blow this week, and we need all the resources we can muster to get power back where it’s out, food to people who are hungry, clothes and shelter to people whose lives washed away.

We’ve also suffered an enormous psychological blow, one whose effects I feel in strange ways, like the feeling of annoyance you get when the news talks about something other than recovery, like that feeling of dread you get when you look at the blacked-out city, like the feeling of guilt we have as we enjoy having power and food knowing we’re just across the river from people with neither.

I love this city and how it absorbs and overcomes disaster. As horrible as 9/11 was, it was amazing to live here in the days following, even though we had no power, even though our apartment and our offices were behind barricades, even though we were breathing toxic air and cut off from everyone we loved. It was amazing to live here through the 2003 blackout, to walk through the streets of the lower east side unable to see the fingers of my hand but to feel no fear.

As someone who’s made New York home, when I think about what it will feel like to run through every borough, following a course that literally links the city together, I get excited at the thought of being part of the psychological recovery that the run will, I believe, represent.

As a business owner whose own business is boosted every year by the marathon running right past his restaurant’s front door, I get the importance of the economic energy–300 million dollars, I’ve read–that the marathon injects into the city. God knows we need all the economic energy we can stand right now, you can also start a business and here are several ideas for online business.

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