The most challenging hill of my 4-mile run came in the last half mile. I couldn’t yet see my house, but I knew it was only 5 minutes away. But that killer hill was a problem. A big problem. It separated me from my rest, and after already running nearly 4 miles, I was exhausted.

I’m a stubborn one, though. I didn’t want to walk those last couple hundred yards. I wanted to experience the satisfaction of being able to say, “I ran the whole way.” I didn’t want to let a lousy hill rob me of that accomplishment. Still, I knew I’d have to find an ounce of strength somewhere if I was going to make it.

Up ahead an older couple walked their dog, making slow progress toward me. I saw them coming, suspecting they walked nearly as fast as I jogged. When I came within 20 feet, I lifted my head to say “Good afternoon.” But before I could get the words out, this dear woman did something I will never forget:

“Do you need some extra encouragement?” She smiled and put her hands together in an enthusiastic cheer. “You can do it! You can! Just a little ways left to go. This is the worst hill, but you’re almost there!” She continued to smile and clap, long after I passed her and her husband. I felt as if I was running in a race, pushing toward the finish line amid the cheers of a crowd. In reality, it was only one woman cheering one runner, on an ordinary afternoon, on an ordinary path, in my very ordinary neighborhood.

I have no idea who she was. It wasn’t until I made it to the other side of the hill that I started to comprehend what she’d done. With a few well-placed words and a smile, she helped me finish the last leg of my jog without stopping. She didn’t plan to stand at the end of my race, at the point of my most daunting challenge. But when she saw me and my predicament, she wouldn’t let me pass without doing her part to help me achieve my goal.

The day and the run were ordinary. But her presence and her response were anything but.

Who needs the extraordinary from you today?

 

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