Be The Encouraging Stranger

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!

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15 responses to “Be The Encouraging Stranger”

  1. I, too, can testify to the power of the encouraging stranger(s)!

    Years ago, I was on the shore of the lake my where my parents used to live enjoying 2 of my favorite things, reading and beer. I had brought a favorite book and some Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserves down to the beach with the plan of not moving for the entire afternoon.

    Later (much later) a boat came by full of people out for a slow sight-seeing loop around the lake. As they came by, the driver idled back, and called, “Hey, those empties all yours?”

    I looked down, and quickly (or maybe not SO quickly, considering) saw that there were 8 empty bottles. I looked up, shrugged my shoulders, and responded, “Yep! Guess so!”

    Everyone on board stood up and started clapping and cheering for me.

    Felt good.

    • Oh, Jeffy. You know I’m reposting this as one of the “encouraging stranger” stories, right? Because that’s HILARIOUS!

      • My husband couldn’t stop laughing when I read him this story (I giggled myself, gotta admit 😉 ) and I strongly suspect he’s gonna try to copy it on our next vacation… (which incidentally is to the USA, so I guess, watch out Myrtle Beach NC!) Thanks for sharing, Jeff! (just trying to be the encouraging stranger, or doesn’t this count? ;-))

    • Ha! Thanks, Kristen. You’re always so, so nice! I need some of your nice. Do you want to share?

      You know how they say “don’t do everything, but what you do, do well”? Yeah – I do everything, but none of it well. 🙂 But that’s OK.

      • It really is okay, I decided the same last year! I tend to be ‘all over the place’, doing 5 times simultaneously, which makes me end up with at least 3 chores half-finished or done badly… (which tends to drive my husband insane, but hey, if he can do a better job at it than me, be my guest, right? 😉 )

  2. I have not seen your kids up close, but as far as I can tell by looking at your pictures, they’re doing great, so I can only assume that these ladies above me are right! 🙂 As far as running goes… I gotta hand it to you, I really really really admire you for it, and I feel I should try it too (my husband runs as well), but I just really really really dislike it (did I emphasize that enough you think? 😉 ) which makes me wonder whether I could do anything to ‘turn my running frown upside down’, any ideas? Anyway, I really like the whole stranger thing (I do try to give encouraging smiles to moms with toddlers gone wild in the supermarket, hey, been there…) and I’m definitely going to give it a go, starting this afternoon! To be continued 🙂

    • Oh, yay! I so love to push running. Mostly because I thought I HATED it. Then, as I was losing my baby weight (which was on top of my over-weight before I ever grew babies), I thought I’d try a running program I’d heard about.

      It’s the Couch-to-5K program. Starts you off small (I mean, tiny – like barely jog for 60 seconds) and works you up over 9 weeks (or, in my case, 5 months – not kidding) to running 5 kilometers.

      And, check this out, I FOUND THE PROGRAM IN DUTCH! How cool is that??

      The key I found was this (and the reason it took me 5 months), repeat the weeks until they’re do-able. You’ve heard of no pain, no gain? Yeah – TOSS THAT! No pain = I’ll keep doing it 🙂 Now I push myself sometimes to reach a goal, but, honestly, I’m OK with just doing it… no need to do it well yet.


      • Omg, Beth you’re the coolest! I cannot believe you actually took the time to look up the program in Dutch… Thank you! So now it’s just ‘getting into the running mode’ I guess… *sigh* hahaha! 😉

  3. Beth, Hey, you’re doing great with those kids! And I mean it, too. I’ve seen them up close. Is it okay to be the encouraging mom-in-law? But I love your goal for the week, and I’ll give the stranger thing a try, too.

    • And maybe I could come over and walk the loop while you run, and you could have the satisfaction of “lapping” me several times.

      • Thanks, Judy! Weeks – I’ll live off of it for weeks. And being the encouraging mother-in-law is the very best kind to be.

        Oh, wait. I take that back. Being the “watches the kids while we take the other kids to Disneyland” is the best kind to be. Being the encouraging MIL is the second best kind to be. Good thing you’re both!

        Sadly, I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t lap you on the loop… but thanks for thinking it’s possible. 😉

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