Change the World! One Word of Encouragement at a Time.

Encouragement. It can be given and received in so many ways: A smile. A thoughtful text. Thanking a restaurant server or store clerk by name. Giving a hug. Cheering for someone during their performance. Sending a card in the mail. Calling someone just to let them know you’re thinking of them. Sharing a high five or fist bump. Telling someone they’re doing a good job. Sharing a song or video with someone you think will be inspired by it.

Or strategically placing a billboard to encourage runners at the toughest part of a local race. I recently ran in the Mardi Gras Mambo 10K in downtown Baton Rouge. It was a disappointing performance for me, as I struggled and felt kinda sick and depleted for much of the race, and my overall pace/time was way off my goal. And do you know how I finished a race where I felt bad and wanted to throw in the towel? Yes, training and determination made a difference. No doubt.

But the fresh air my spirit needed in order to keep me going at a pace above give-up level was…ENCOURAGEMENT!

There were the kind folks who took the time to stand out on the side of the course, simply to cheer for those running the course. There was the woman who made a point of telling me “You Got This!” as she eased past me during one of my toughest stretches. I actually thought she was a family friend, and I found the energy to pick the pace back up and slowly catch up to her. As I moved over close to tell her I appreciated her encouragement, and to encourage her in turn, I realized she was a total stranger. She once again told me “You Got This!” as her face appeared to be a mixture of, “Looks like I made a new friend today,” and “I hope this guy isn’t a creep.” Okay, awkward moment – but encouragement gratefully received. There was the friend of mine who started passing me right about the time I felt like giving up and walking in. He was so in the zone he didn’t even realize who I was for the few minutes I tethered myself to him and held pace with him before having to walk again for a bit.

And there was the billboard thoughtfully placed by the wonderful folks at Lamar Advertising Company at the point where they knew many runners would be struggling the most. The big interstate overpass that feels like a mountain when you reach it after over five miles of hard running. It meant so much to me at that moment of struggle and frustration and weariness and determination that I was nearly moved to tears. I took the first pic because I wanted the blessed encouragers at Lamar to see just a few of the folks they were silently inspiring and cheering over the Big One to the finish line just out of sight. And since I was trudging, rather than running, at that point anyway, I turned for a quick selfie so they could see how desperately I needed their loving billboard right then.

Most of the time, offering encouragement to someone in need costs us little. It requires us to pay attention to the journey of others besides ourselves. It takes a willingness to make an effort on someone else’s behalf. And it takes a bit of time. But the rewards!!! The rewards may be greater than you will ever know. The life-giving blessing you share may be a great turning point in someone’s life. The encouragement you give may keep someone going through a struggle you couldn’t comprehend. Your words may lift them out of their lonely hell onto a path of hope. Change the world. Be an encourager. You may not ever make the history books, or even the local news. But you can inspire someone’s life today. And you never know what impact that will make. But I bet you’ll be glad you did. And I’m sure they will be. Blessings, friends. YOU GOT THIS!

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