Today, I was reminded of the power behind the Megsmiles movement. Some days it reveals itself in a run we didn't think we had in us, a sunrise we'd never noticed, or in a hug we never would have given but now wouldn't dream of missing. Because if Meg has taught us anything, next hugs aren't guaranteed. But today I was assured Megsmiles is much more than that. Even beyond the marvels mentioned above, the spirit of Meg Menzies comes alive in the connections that have been formed remembering together what an incredible human being she was, and in challenging each other to live life equally well.
Soon after joining the Megsmiles community, I met Tracey Outlaw. Outside of our common desire to find and share meaning in Meg's death, it's hard to imagine our paths would have crossed in this life. But they did. Time after time, in the crowded, digital room of tens of thousands of Megsmilers, I kept bumping into this guy. Maybe I was drawn to the last name. How much would you pay the name gods for the last name Outlaw? I'd personally drain my savings. But whether he was running a race in some hidden corner of this country - Megsmiles shirt proudly displayed - or sharing a Flat Parker story from some corner of this world I'd never heard of, Tracey Outlaw kept showing up in my newsfeed. And with each of his stories, I began to suspect that behind the gigabytes and digital images of what some days seemed like the internet's version of Superman, there was a very real person with a very big heart. Yesterday, I was blessed to have my suspicions confirmed.
I was at a Washington Nationals game Friday night when I got a message from Tracey that he was coming to Richmond the next day for the NASCAR race. Me, I decide at the last minute to go to the Walmart in town on Saturday morning before the sun comes up - proud to beat the crowd. Tracey Outlaw races off to the Cincinnati airport to airplane hop from Ohio to Virginia to hang out on pit row at RIR. This, by the way, does nothing to damage his online Superman image.
So yesterday afternoon, before he made the return trip home, we met at an Applebees near Richmond International Airport.
I have to admit, I went into the restaurant looking for a man in a cape. What I found was an ordinary fella in a t-shirt and a ball cap. Tracey and I spent the next hour or so placing online stories with real life faces. For me, it was learning that sometimes the online world and the real world aren't all that different. A guy with a big heart online can have a giant one off of it.
Tracey told me about his "awesome" weekend. He went running with Meg's mom and with Scott. When he talked about their conversations, tears filled his eyes. Subsequently, tears filled mine. That's one thing you just can't find in the online version of Megsmiles - two guys choking up together in the midst of a couple of dozen other men who are alternately cursing and cheering their favorite NFL teams. I'm more sure than ever today, though, that's exactly what Meg wants.
When you hear stories about who Meg was, at least the stories I most frequently hear from Scott, you learn Meg was someone who loved bringing people together. She was a uniter. While Tracey and I talked yesterday, you could feel more than a connection between us. You could feel a connector. So often when I read the Megsmiles posts, I can't help but picture Meg scurrying around in heaven like a wedding planner on Mojo Bars, cooordinating unity. Now don't get me wrong. I don't think God needs Meg's help in this endeavor. Nor do I believe he called her home for such a purpose. But when she got there, and seized all the power and opportunity to bring people together like never before, He smiled and willingly got out of her way.
In Tracey's jammed packed visit, he never got the opportunity to take his old pair of running shoes to Meg's memorial. He left the shoes with me and asked me to take them there for him. In a way, that will be a difficult thing to do. I can't help but believe, though, when I hang those shoes amongst so many others, I will be helping a perfect stranger turned friend. I believe that's the way Meg would have wanted it, and likely just the way she planned it.
I encourage all of the Megsmiles community today. Run. Be strong. Live life to the fullest. And one of the best ways to do the latter - make real life friends out of online strangers.