Be The Encouraging Stranger

Jan 22 2011

Lesson learned.

Never underestimate the power of a stranger’s words.

I just went running.

I run because it’s the only kind of exercise I’ve managed to consistently fit into a life with five kids.  I don’t have to get gear together or drive to a gym or buy special clothes.  I don’t have to wear a swimsuit, or watch myself dance in front of a wall of mirrors. (My running shoe is off to you, Leanne!)

I can just put on my running shoes, beg my husband for a few minutes, and I’m out the door.

And I’ve been shocked (shocked, I tell you) at how much I love to run, especially since I didn’t start ’til my mid-thirties.

I haven’t run for over two weeks.

I tried to count walking at Disneyland as exercise.  I didn’t, however, count against my exercise efforts the deep fried Monte Cristo sandwiches, the sugar-coated churros, or the breakfast sausages (if they’re included in the hotel price, the calories don’t count, right?).

Obviously, it was way past time to get my rear end back on the exercise path.

I was slow.

I’m always slow.  I’ve never been anything but slow.

But I was really slow.

An incredibly fit, extremely pretty, very smiley runner was out there with me.  Her long, blond hair was literally flowing in the wind as she ran.

She was young.  She was tall.

Don’t you just hate her?

She lapped me.


I knew I should feel good that I got out there.  As a generally slow runner with a competitive personality, I have to work at not comparing myself to others.

But I was comparing.  And I didn’t feel great.

As I finished my final lap, the Runner Extraordinaire ran toward me.  She said, “I just wanted to say, you’re awesome.  Good job.”

She managed to do it with kindness and sweetness, and it lifted my heart.  I floated back home.

Never underestimate the power of a stranger’s words or how thirsty we all are for encouragement.

My goal for the week is this:

Be the encouraging stranger.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

And I’d love company.  If you’d like to post your stories of spreading encouragement, please do.  Or you can e-mail me at, and I’ll post your stories for you.

Here’s a free tip if you don’t know how to get started: any mom in any public setting likes to know she’s doing a good job with her kids.  I can live off “hey, you’re doing great with those kids” for weeks!