Miles for Mercy: Leadman 2017

"I am more than broken. In fact, there is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can't otherwise see; you hear things you can't otherwise hear. You begin to recognize that humanity resides in each of us." -Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy

We are all broken. I learned about brokenness this past year watching my mom endure the chemotherapy treatments meant to combat her breast cancer. I learned about brokenness from our national embrace of a man who has made the exploitation of fear and divisiveness his hallmark. I learned about brokenness teaching American history to eleventh graders as we confronted the wide gulf that separates our lofty ideological inheritance as Americans from the continuing realities of injustice for so many among us. I am still coming to terms with my own brokenness.

This year I also learned that, in the words of Bryan Stevenson, each of us is "more than broken." Inspired by my mom's courage in the face of her illness, and the life she has lived in service of those who are broken and forgotten, I am taking on the biggest challenge of my life to raise money for an organization that is helping to confront and rectify the brokenness of our collective past.

As part of this "Leadman" challenge, I will participate in five endurance events in my home of Leadville: a trail marathon (+6,000' of climbing); a 50-mile mountain bike race (+7,500' of climbing); a 100-mile mountain bike race (+12,600' of climbing); a 10k; and culminating on August 19th with the Leadville Trail 100 run (+15,600' of climbing). In each race I must finish within the allotted cutoff time to qualify as a Leadman. 

I have no idea whether my body is capable of this challenge. I have no idea whether our country is capable of reckoning with the persistence of injustice. But I'm optimistic that when I pay attention to my body, and when we as Americans acknowledge our collective past, we will "learn things that are hard to learn otherwise." Whether you are a close friend, family member, colleague, one of my former students or teachers, or an acquaintance, I hope you'll join me on this journey. We are more than broken.


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Jacob Sheetz-Willard 
Leadville, CO
Equal Justice Initiative (Eji) 
Registered nonprofit
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