Still attempting to break in my new shoes. I am very grateful the new shoes came to me broken…
As I nearly reached the halfway point of my oval, 1-mile, walking path, the connected Christian school was conducting PE class. The days objective was the 1-mile run. As the runners lined up and took off on on their teachers “Go”, I was about 200 yards behind the “enthusiastic” runners. The runners didn’t go for much more than 200 yards before they went behind a bathroom/picnic building. On the other side of the building (bathroom and picnic tables) where the path emerged, the runners were transformed into very slow walkers.
As I passed their phys ed coach, I asked her, “Is it okay if try to motivate them a little if I pass them?
“Sure”, she said. “They often go pretty slow on the back of the course.”
I took this as my license to try and encourage them in my best coaches voice as I passed the kids. Out of the 10-12 that started, it appeared 1/3 of the kids ran the mile per instructions, and 1/3 was a group of guys walking slightly faster than the group of girls bringing up the tail. Although my feet may have been working a little extra hard due to the thrill of a challenge, the girls were pretty easily vanquished. Because the girls were so involved in their conversation, my heavy foot falls right next to them made them jump a bit when I began my passing move.
“Your teacher said I should remind you to keep running.” I said somewhat encouragingly–I know I was smiling big when I said it.
As I kept walking, the girls continued to get farther in my rearview mirror. Now, I could focus on the boys in front of me. They were spanning the whole width of the sidewalk. As were their female classmates, they revealed in no outer way they were aware of me about to pass them. Because they were boys, I am pretty sure my encouragement was more like what a football coach might say.
“Your teacher wanted me to remind you not to walk. She knows how you guys always use it as social time.”, I preached-a sneering smile likely adorned my face.
My sermon did have some brief success. The boys grunted before picking up their pace (in fact they ran) for a couple of hundred yard. When they resumed their previous slow walking speed, I knew we would meet again. “Ditto” was all I needed to say as I passed them the second time. They laughed a little bit, but based on the reaction of their feet, they were not very interested in anything that would interfere with their social time.
As I came to the part of the path where my non-responsive high school friends had started their lap, I did have to give their teacher an update.
“In the boys defense, I did have to pass them twice.”, I proclaimed.
I believe she understood the ramifications of the comment. At least, it gave her something to chew on. As I continued my walk, I heard her raising her voice to get the slackers over the “finish” line. It appeared the two groups had merged as they came into the final stretch. I am not sure how the boys slowed up enough to let that happen! If I get the chance to coach again, I will need to crank the encouragement up a few notches!
Whether the teacher admitted to the license she granted me or not, I hope the kids I interacted with do remember me. Whether I am the weird guy who spoke to them or, if the encounter was slightly humorous, the guy who walks really fast, I hope I am not some phantom they hide in their brain only to be brought back to life under deep hypnosis. I believe it is our obligation to stretch ourselves forward a generation or two. (The older we get, the harder it is to stretch forward. The older we get, the more we hope others are willing to stretch from ahead back to us.) The more the next generations sees others noticing them, the more value they assign to themselves. (I have not done studies…it just makes sense to me. And, since much of what I do has a spiritual “side” to it, I think the kids need more “good” people [I may not be good, but I am not dangerious ;-)] in their lives. If you are not a mentor of a particular kid, exhibit a quality that is one worth emulating, like walking fast or whatever.) If the world wants to devolve into chaos, our influence may lessen the impact of the chaos in our communities. Touch a life today. Make them smile, and see who smiles bigger-you or them!