It is possible that that some people do not consider a pyramid of bright yellow sulfur to be an attractive sight. But for our family, that view always evokes nostalgic smiles and wistful sighs. You see, along with heavy seaplane traffic and the striking architecture of the Vancouver Convention Centre, the miniature mountain of sulfur always signaled to our family that our boat had passed beneath the Lion’s Gate Bridge and was approaching our Coal Harbour dock, one of our favourite boating destinations (we even get into the British spelling as you can see).
This past Friday, my husband and I arrived in Vancouver by car rather than by boat, but even so we both felt our spirits lift as we caught sight of the familiar landmark across the harbour. We had come to Vancouver as the cheering squad for our daughter Miriam, who would compete in her first marathon on Sunday. Aside from the achievement of running the 26 mile course in an amazing four and a half hours despite almost constant rain, she and her teammates also raised over a million dollars for Leukemia/Lymphoma research. I was delighted that so many of you supported her efforts. Thank you.
Over the years, our family hasn’t been very typically American in our children’s sports activities. We had a few summers of T-ball and soccer day camp when the kids were younger and a basketball season or two during high school. But our lives never revolved around Little League or driving kids to and from games and practices. Our children’s physical pursuits tended to be more informal neighborhood games, individual endeavors like snow-boarding and the family passion of boating. Parental cheering squads just weren’t often needed.
One reason we weren’t into team sports was that we live in an area with only a small population of Sabbath-observing Jews. Most games were scheduled for Friday night and Saturdays, which our children learned effectively ruled out their participation. One year our son did find a basketball team that played only on weekdays. However, to his disappointment, their final championship game fell on the night of Purim, the Feast of Esther, and he went to synagogue rather than to the gym.
Last November, when Miriam decided she wanted to run a marathon and to train with the well-known Team in Training, the fund raising arm of the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, she discovered that training was scheduled for Saturdays and Tuesday nights. At that point, had it been me, I would have shrugged and looked for a pottery course instead. But Miriam explained to the coaches that she could not attend the Saturday runs on account of Shabbat and found friends with whom she could run on Sunday instead.
That was one of the ways in which she balanced being part of the group and following her faith. Another was that on this past Saturday, while her team members spent the day before the race touring Vancouver, she and we enjoyed the Sabbath in our hotel. We lit the candles on Friday evening and spent the long sunny Saturday attending worship service, enjoying our Shabbat meals and strolling the busy harbour front to view our beloved snow-clad mountains, the seaplanes and ships, and of course the yellow sulfur stack.
Since the official pre-race pasta party, intended to assist carbohydrate loading, was both on the Sabbath and did not involve kosher food, we brought pasta salad from home for Miriam to eat in our room on Saturday night. With all the issues that cropped up for a religious Jewish participant, her team members were always understanding and helpful. Until Sunday night after the race was over. That was when most of the runners enjoyed a rambunctious party featuring a great deal of the alcohol they had to refrain from in the weeks leading up to the race. They were sure that beer was kosher and were puzzled by our daughter not participating.
Finishing a marathon is a great achievement; living with integrity is an even greater one. Well done, Miriam!