Walking for NAMI - A Day in the Life

John McManamy Health Guide
  • I’m sure this happens to you all the time: On Saturday, my alarm went off at 6 AM. More than 3,000 people were scheduled to show up for the San Diego NAMI Country Walk in three hours. My head was definitely not in the game that time of morning, not for a Walk, not for my own funeral, not for anything.


    Actually, my head had not been in the game - this particular one - the whole week. I had other projects that required my time. Plus, I needed my own time to myself. But since I serve on the board of NAMI San Diego, I couldn’t just roll over and go back to sleep and wake up three hours later feeling guilty about missing the Walk, which would have been my preferred option (remember, this was six in the morning, which equates to 3 AM bipolar time).

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    But showing up is an essential requirement for serving on any board, whether to a meeting or to our largest public event of the year. Moreover, I had the most important job for the Walk. Okay, maybe not most important. Well, sort of important. Uh, not important at all, totally non-essential, in fact. My job was to show up at 7:30 in the morning and ask the organizers where the drummers were supposed to set up. This was a new venue, and there was a bit of confusion.


    So, after distracting at least four people from what they really needed to be doing, my job was done. I could go home. Everyone had seen me. No one would miss me when the mobs turned up.


    Nevertheless, I decided to stay. Just call me crazy. We had a no-show for drummers this year, but I improvised and recruited some people onsite to make noise with me. I had some extra drums and noise-makers on hand, plus there was me with an amped-up didgeridoo.


    Quarter past nine - the Walk kicks off. From our drumming location, we see the walkers head off and turn a corner along the far border of the park. They turn another corner. One more corner and they will be headed our way. We start making some noise. I look around. No walkers are approaching us.


    If the organizers had planned it this way, they succeeded brilliantly. We were making noise where we would disturb absolutely no one. I had recruited one of our board members as a fellow noise-maker. Together, we looked at the route map and determined that the walkers had headed off the course. I could easily imagine them disappearing into an ethereal fog and never being seen again, like the kids in the Pied Piper.


    I can see it now: Breaking news ...


    Fortunately, the organizers were on the case, the walkers got turned around, but on a slightly different heading that involved us hastily shifting location. The walkers came into view. We banged. We honked. We made excellent noise. The walkers loved us. As I told you, I had the most important job for the Walk, When a stream of walkers, all in a celebratory mood, passes and acknowledges their appreciation, it certainly feels that way.


    But not all of the walkers had passed our way. Not to be denied, we decided to bolt for a different corner of the park. Try to imagine a group of us trotting with drums and didgeridoos and - better yet, don’t. At our new location, it was clear that all the various streams of walkers had reconsolidated. Our little band made truly inspiring noise. I just know we changed the lives of 3,000 people that day.


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    Now I could head home with a clear conscience. But leave it to me, I hung around for another hour. Life is like that: You hardly ever want to show up, but once you do, it’s almost impossible to leave.




    Many thanks to the organizers of the San Diego County NAMI Walk and all those who participated. The event was a tremendous success. We raised mental health awareness, together with funding to help us achieve our mission of education, support, and advocacy. It’s a never-ending task, which means we’ll all be doing it again next year. 


Published On: April 14, 2013