The Encouragee

So, last K of Parkrun . . . I’m fading a little. Not too much. Just a little. Parkrun? Don’t know it? It’s a national movement – literally – of people who run 5K each Saturday morning in parks around the U.K.

Successful? If you took the distance each parkrunner has run since it started and put those metres end to end . . . the moon? Nope. More like Mars.

So, I’m nearing the end and I notice a lady nearby who’s also flagging a bit. My back is tightening and the pain is starting to kick in but I’m starting to ease past her. Then, for no particular reason, I decide to gee her up.

“Come on, you can do it!”

“You’re doing great!”

“Not far now, come on, keep up with me!”

She smiles. I smile too. She speeds up a little. We run together. Doesn’t take much, does it? The power of words, the effect of encouragement is a powerful thing.

But here’s what I didn’t expect.

The moment I opened my mouth, something happened physically inside me. It was as though I had received an injection of endorphins straight into my veins. The surge of energy inside my body was remarkable . . . and unexpected. I thought, ‘I gotta find someone to encourage every week!’ I could run a marathon like this, just telling other runners they’re doing great!

I’m not telling this story to claim some kind of moral virtue. Far from it.

I have two points:

1) Encouragement is easily done, but often neglected. The NT is full of encouragement, but how often do we do it? Not enough. Not nearly enough. Is it our cynical age or embarrassment or not quite knowing how to do it? Here’s a quick lesson. See the woman who’s been serving coffee every week for the past year in your church. Here’s your line: “Hi Carol, just wanted to say how much I appreciate your service each week. You do a fantastic job.” It’s not that hard. Encouragement should focus on something specific, be sincere and yup, you have to remember to do it. It doesn’t cost you anything but it can quite literally change a person’s day, even week.

2) That surge of energy inside my body on Parkrun? There was a message in that, I think. For me, certainly, and maybe for you. Encouraging others, doing good to others, nourishes the soul. It certainly nourished my body. The act of speaking to my fellow-runner drove me on, generated increased energy for my own race. It cost nothing, helped her and made me feel like I could run the course again.

So, here’s a thought. The injunction to ‘love your neighbour as yourself,’ maybe those two are so interconnected, they are indivisible. The best way, by far, to love yourself is surely to love your neighbour. And the degree to which you care for others – on Parkrun, that meant encouragement – is the degree to which you truly love yourself.

So, this next week, why don’t you identify someone in your life who could do with some ‘geeing up?’ Don’t be glib; don’t make it a joke. Mean it when you say you appreciate what they do. You may find your body surging with endorphins. Or your soul.

But one thing’s for certain.

Your encouragee will appreciate your words.

And you might even make their day.

© Richard Collins 2015


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