“Knees up!” “Come on!” “Well done girls!”….these were the words that were cheerfully being carried down the river by a gentleman who was standing a few feet away from me at Park Run yesterday morning. As I turned to look at the author of these encouragements, I saw an elderly gentleman poised at the top of the Riverside Park bank in a prime viewing spot, intentionally perched, ready to cheer the runners on.
It wasn’t the first time this “no.1 Encourager” had caught my attention. After all, us Brits aren’t typically known for being loud, overt and public in our praise, encouragement and adoration. That’s not to say that lots of us aren’t, I just don’t think it’s something we’re typically known for! So this man definitely stood out to me.
This man stood out for two main reasons.
Number one: He cheered a variety of encouraging “gee ups” more than anyone else I could hear. He was enthusiastic, he SOUNDED excited not just in the content of what he was saying but in the way he said it. He clapped, he cheered, he leant forward. He really meant it! And it stood out!
Number two: He cheered and encouraged not just for the one, but for many, many people – consistently, all the way from the start to the end of the race.
This was the thing that was most striking to me. When this gentleman first caught my attention, I thought “well done that man, encouraging your daughter/son/granddaughter/friend…or whoever it was running the race”, but after watching him for a couple of moments, I realised that he didn’t just cheer one person on and then stop after they’d passed his viewing spot, but he cheered many people on, one after the other….different encouragements for different ages. I don’t know this man, and I hope to hear him cheering on again another time and maybe I’ll be bold enough to go over and talk to him, to find out a bit about his story and what brings him to Park Run each week to take up his position of chief cheerleader (and to share the impact it had on me!)
It was really profound the impact this man had on many people….most of whom I presume he didn’t know. His encouragements brought smiles to people, a lifting up of heads to see who the author of the encouragement was, a quickening of pace and a determination to keep going up the steeper bank of the course. He may not even know the difference that he potentially made to those runners, and continues to make. As this thought settled in my mind, another, more personal thought came to sit alongside it. How many people do I cross paths with in my day to day life that I could give a small word of encouragement to? An intentional conversation with a cashier in Wilkos, or a noticing of someone’s nice perfume and complimenting them, or a “well done and thank you” to the patrol crossing lady at the school road crossing, saying you notice them and appreciate them for the hundreds and thousands of times they help children to cross the road safely each term.
There are so many moments, most of them small, that present as small yet Heavenly Kingdom moments of opportunity to bless, encourage, lift up and see the small acts of service and loving of others. It’s so easy to miss them, either due to hurrying or feeling too shy, maybe being too “British”, or too self-conscious to break out from the realm of ‘self’ to ‘other’ but it’s so powerful. It’s a beautiful to thing to watch. A wonderful thing to recreate. And an uplifting thing to receive.
Thank you to this gentleman. Thank you for lifting my eyes up and encouraging me to be an encourager.