“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” —Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
While running around the lake on a sultry late June morning, I noticed one of my friends waiting with arms in a running pose. Usually, he walks many laps and I pass him running. We often warmly greet each other with a “Good Morning!” I know his first name. He knows my first name.
This morning, he surprised me by joining me for a short section of a loop.
The green treed mountains, Carolina Blue sky, white clouds, ripples on the lake, and dusty, sand mixed with gravel path held us in our rhythmic flow.
We began to converse, our first conversation.
“I stopped smoking six years ago. I started smoking when I was eight years old.” he shared.
“Wow! I celebrate your courage in choosing your health, your life. What has helped you not smoke during these six years?”
He shrugged his shoulders and then admitted, “I still think about the brand of cigarettes I smoked.”
We ran side by side for a few more feet than he signaled he needed to stop.
“Great job!” I smiled at him as he looked the other way. I continued running.
I felt my feet inside my shoes, a full-body heat, and the slightly annoying trickles of sweat on my face which I wiped with my sleeve. I breathed puffs of air and felt grateful to see the geese, hear the birds singing, and ducks splash land in the lake. Having been steeped in messages and images of how cigarettes damage health, I thought about how I had not once smoked cigarettes. I had softened and then silenced my outspoken criticisms of smokers. I knew their addictive design and how the person smoking probably struggled with internal strife and contradictions.
My friend mustered the courage to quit smoking. He walked every day, sometimes twice a day. Now, he had chosen to run beside me.
As I approached him, I watched as he began to run, again, for another short section by my side.
I smiled at him. I told him how essential athletics were to my dad and how I had been running for a while. I shared I had many other challenges in my life to overcome.
“You live long enough, and something is going to get difficult. For some lives, the challenges can begin early,” I said.
When he needed to stop this time, we high-fived.
“You did it!”
Looking in another direction, he said, “I did not thank you for your encouragement. Thank you.”
He beamed a big smile, still looking in another direction, and his face transformed. As I took in his side view, I noticed how he looked years younger. I caught a twinkle in his right eye.
“Anytime you want to run a bit with me, I’m happy to run with you! Know that.” I smiled and continued running.
Appreciating other people may be one of my favorite things to do in this lifetime.
To be an encourager can feel natural and life-giving.
Can you witness the courageous actions of another person? Can you feel inspired by their character qualities and gifts gleaned from grace? Can you encourage them in their small, medium, or grand daily leaps?
Maybe you can begin to experience yourself as a person living aligned with your deepest values, your joy, and your passions. May you know other good-hearted people who see and accept you despite your inner critic. When you stumbled, then ran around a track or through a neighborhood, you might have encountered several individuals who failed to see your strength and beautiful, brave spirit. May you currently know a beloved individual who sees, hears, and values you. May that individual be someone who inspires you to be the healthiest version of yourself.
Being a human being on the planet right now can be simultaneously excruciating and breathtakingly beautiful. You are a multi-faceted, complicated, breathing creature. You deserve to be seen, heard, and celebrated for your bold and brave actions. May you encourage yourself and many others moving forward all around you.
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately supports people thriving by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, and life. Laura is the published author of four books including Live Inspired which reveals the brave and deep work of self-discovery and her new book of short writings and poetry Abundant Heart: Thoughts on Healing, Loving, and Living Free where with her characteristic grace and candor, Laura shares thoughtful-sometimes comical reflections on healing, loving and living free as inspirational pathways for experiencing a soul-centered, fulfilled life.