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I am often guilty of making grandiose claims. My wife is keenly aware of this, and regularly responds to a claim made about the downfall of society or the essential truths to be found in hardware stores with a causal eye-roll. I attribute this habit to a profession of extracting life’s lessons from literature and sharing with students, and a lack of willpower to keep this from spilling over into my everyday life. As anyone who has spent some time alone with their thoughts while running will tell you, running provides an undeniable window into our lives and has more than once resulted in me storming through the garage door after a run with a new epiphany about the universe to share. Most recently, my running life has returned me to a childhood lesson that seems to have been forgotten in adulthood, “Don’t yuck someone else’s yum.”
As children, we were all taught that as guests at another’s dinner table, we were to try everything and be thankful for our host’s hospitality. Whether the meal of baked oysters was familiar to us or not, we were taught it was rude to comment on the unappetizing texture of the sea creatures or the briny smell that permeated the entire house. It was simply unacceptable to “yuck someone else’s yum.” Though the mantra was most regularly employed in reference to the culinary habits of our friends and neighbors, it provided an important lesson about how we treat one another in general. “Don’t yuck someone else’s yum” applied broadly to the ideal of embracing and supporting the activities that brought joy to someone else. Sure making crocheted napkin holders might not be my cup of tea, but that shouldn’t stop my mother from spending her Saturday afternoons with two hooks, a ball of yarn, and a smile on her face.
Last week, an article in The Wall Street Journal created quite the scuttlebutt. The uprising was not in response to a scathing public commentary or objective financial analysis. The article in question hit a particularly vibrant vein in the WSJ’s readership, runners. Apparently, columnist Chad Stafko takes particular offence to the unnerving reality that individuals run, that individuals buy running products, and that individuals may, in fact, inform others that they run. The central criminals of Mr. Stafko’s public execution were the numerous 26.2 and 13.1 stickers Mr. Stafko was forced to endure on his daily commute. How insensitive of the running community to affront Mr. Stafko with their blazon displays of pride and self-worth! Additionally, the outraged columnist had to endure seeing runners on roads and trails at all hours of the day, and at times even had to share the roadway with these glorified pedestrians.
The immediate, and violent, response from the running community accused Mr. Stafko of everything from being an example of the lazy problem with the American health care system to suffering from a potentially fatal case of runner-envy. To me, however, Mr. Stafko’s article is just another example in a long line of evidence that we have forgotten the simple rules of our childhood mantras. (Note the grandiose claim. Insert eye-roll here.)
As a community, we are responsible for supporting and enabling the best in all of us. Your chosen pursuits might not be the same as mine, but that should not offend me, it should inspire me. I am certainly not a perfect example of this, and have in the past responded to roadside power-walkers with deriding comments or marveled in condescension of individuals who spent their Saturdays laboring over a bed of petunias. But I would like to thank Mr. Stafko for the reminder that we are all entitled to pursue the things we love, and that we all need to remember “don’t yuck someone else’s yum.”
Chris Compson has run at the state, national and international level and spent several years coaching beginning runners. He would love to hear your comments and questions. Please send responses to email@example.com