A few weeks ago during my lunchtime jog, I was pleased to see a group of 2nd or 3rd grade girls outside, getting exercise. An entire class was out walking/running around a large block on part of my running route. Parents were helping out, and the kids appeared to be having a good time. I first noticed a small group of 4-5 kids (obviously the fast and fit kids, as they were all running) and wondered what they were doing. Next came several batches of kids scattered over several hundred yards on the sidewalk; some walking, some jogging.
At the first batch of kids, I smiled to myself and became curious.
At the second batch of kids, I smiled at them and gave them a wave. Most waved back, smiles on their faces.
At the third batch of kids, I gave them a big smile and a huge wave. They reacted in kind – bigger smiles, bigger waves. Every single one.
Interesting, I thought.
I always run facing traffic, and the sporadic groups of kids were on the other side of the road. As I moved on toward “the laggards” trailing behind (the, um, “larger” kids, all walking, some looking a bit less than happy), I decided to change course. I crossed the street, held up a High Five about 15 yards in front on the kids, and started yelling encouragements:
“Hey girls, looking good!! Come On, High Fives For Everyone”
The first few girls looked a bit unsure of this strange old man running toward them, but soon help up their hands to slap a High 5. They started to smile. The later girls, perhaps influenced by their “peers”, all started to put their hands up, and the smiles got bigger. Slap, slap, slap. About 6 girls in a row. I gave encouragements to each as our hands slapped. The smiles grew bigger. I even passed out High Fives to the moms, and encouraged them for getting out and walking with the girls.
It felt good.
As I continued my run, my encounter with the grade school kids and my impromptu “encouragement experiment” streamed through my mind (I find my lunchtime runs one of the best times of the day to just let my brain wander). I started thinking about encouragement. I started thinking about this blog. Some of the thoughts I had included……
Sometimes it’s the laggards that need our encouragement the most.
It’s so easy to give encouragement, why don’t I do it more often?
Why don’t I take more time to do things that can really impact people in a positive way?
Why don’t more of us do it?
The odd thing is, the benefit not only reaches those that you’re trying to encourage, but the one who is doing the encouraging as well. I’ve had good thoughts about that run for days, while for the school girls involved I suspect it’s a long past memory.
In fact, based on my thinking about that run, I decided to try to implement it more intentionally at work. The day after my run, there was a situation in which a co-worked in another country, who I work with on a regular basis, was facing some pressure on a situation he was attempting to resolve. The root cause of the problem wasn’t of his doing, and he was actually doing a good job of dealing with the situation. However, the criticism was flowing fairly strongly, and he was getting a lot of questions on why the situation wasn’t resolved. I decided to give him a “High Five”:
“Just so you know, folks recognize the good work you’re doing. Don’t get frustrated by the questions, the pressure is intense at the moment. The good work is noted, and appreciated!”
He responded with a heartfelt note, and I could tell in his words that he was encouraged by my note. A few days later, I saw this posting on Facebook:
In our current society so many of us are caught up in the hectic pace of our every day lives, and don’t stop to think about the needs of others. Everyone needs occassional encouragement, and there’s room for all of us to take a few minutes to encourage others.
I know I’ve been uplifted by others doing it for me.
I know I’ve been uplifted by doing it for others.
Give it a try.