I just stood in 83 degree heat, on the edge of a a sun-soaked highway for twenty-five minutes waiting to see someone I've never met, nor likely ever will. And I missed him. He had already gone by.
And so, I grabbed lunch with my wife, then ran off to the same highway, and this time had to wait only minutes to cheer and encourage someone else I don't know. His name is Mark Pattinson, and he is from the United Kingdom. He, and many other men and women are passing through my hometown as they compete in the RAAM--Race Across America.
They started at noon, one week ago today, and have ridden from the west coast, covering just under 2,300 miles (so far), and are on their way to a finish line on the east coast at Annapolis, Maryland. A race--on a bicycle--of 2,996 miles. So far, the ones passing me today have traversed roughly 330 miles each day. Desert, mountains, heat, and only catching a hour or so of sleep per day....want to sign-up?
Once when I ran a mini-marathon (a tiny, inconsequential accomplishment by comparison), a gentleman of a different race, from a different city ran alongside me--long before the finish line--for a full minute shouting encouragement into my broken spirit. He must have seen it in my eyes. He clapped. He told me I was doing great! He shouted: "Great job!" He told me I was almost there. He was not a participant in the race, yet, he was. His encouragement got me to the finish line.
Today it is my turn. I'm following the racers online, and when they pass the bottom of my hill--long before the finish line--I'm going down and cheering them on. To Mr. Pattinson I said, "You're doing great!" I clapped and screamed: "Great job!" And he waved with a weary hand, looked at me and smiled. His support van was right behind and some inside said to me: "Thank you."
I reflected on what I yelled to the rider. They were the same words that a sixty-plus year old black man shouted to me when I wanted to quit on a 13.1 mile run. Somehow, in the great big picture, I was able to give back what was once given to me. And as cliche as it may sound, I had to hold back tears of joy.
We Can Help
I'm reminded that somewhere in my life--every day--there is someone trying to accomplish something, and they may doubt that they can finish. Some are friends that I know; and others I may never know, or ever see again. Some are tired, some are tempted to quit, or doubt that they are really making a difference. They need my assurance, they need my encouragement that they are doing a great job!
I guess I'm just asking you to keep an eye out for someone doing something...maybe for a cause you are not a part of. You may just give them the shove they need. Your encouragement may be what gets them to the finish line! Who can you encourage today?
By the way: you can track the racers by clicking on this link: http://www.tractalis.com/raam2013/ .
Let me know if this gives you any encouragement targets the rest of us can use.